Editor's Note: This story has been updated with new information. See below.
WASHINGTON, August 13, 2009 – The federal government announced on Thursday that it is extending the deadline for electronic applications seeking money to be used for U.S. broadband development, as agency servers have been slow to respond to their unusually heavy load.
The deadline for applications for the Broadband Initiatives Program and the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program has been extended to 5 p.m. ET, on Thursday, August 20, so long as the applications are pending in the Easygrants System on the application closing deadline of 5 p.m. ET, on Friday, August 14.
The deadline for paper applications continues to be tomorrow.
Rural Utilities Service Administrator Jonathan Adelstein issued a statement Thursday saying the Easygrants application system has experienced “service delays due to the volume of activity from potential applicants.”
The RUS and the National Telecommunications Information Administration, which oversee the grant process, have added servers to address the capacity issues, he said.
Brad Ramsay, the general counsel for the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, said Wednesday during a webinar hosted by Governing.com that California and other states have been recommending that applicants file early this week because of concern over the ability of the Web site taking applications to handle them all.
“One person was telling me that the Web site was already abysmally slow as of Monday,” he said.
Successful.com founder Craig Settles last week urged the applicant community to push for a deadline extension because it “benefits communities, local governments and their private sector partners, but the gist of it is this. You reduce the chance of good projects being deep-sixed due to lack of time.”
He also argued that it would give the National Telecommunications Information Administration more time to train, and install management systems for the anonymous volunteer panelists who’ll influence which proposals make the first cuts in the approval process.
An applicant must have completed the following steps to be recognized as having a pending application in the Easygrants system:
1. Log into the system at www.broadbandusa.gov;
2. Select “Start a new application” under “Apply for a new grant/loan;”
3. Select one of the two choices for available funding opportunities;
4. Select “Continue;” and
5. Select “OK” when prompted “Are you sure you want to apply for the program.”
The Recovery Act appropriated $7.2 billion and directed the Agriculture Department’s RUS and The commerce Department’s NTIA to expand broadband access to unserved and underserved communities across the United States, increase jobs, spur investments in technology and infrastructure and provide long-term economic benefits.
2:03 p.m. ET - Commerce Department spokesman Mark Tolbert confirmed that, while the BIP and BTOP applications have been delayed until August 20, the deadline for states and non-profit entities designated by the state to apply for up to $240 million in broadband data funds remains unchanges: Friday, August 14, at 11:59 p.m. ET.
Tolbert said that the delay for BIP and BTOP was necessary because of the large volume of traffic flooding Commerce and Agriculture Department servers. As to mapping applications also taking place electronically, he said, "It hasn't been determined that the situation was needed for that [a change in deadline for mapping applications]."