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Strickling and Adelstein Tout Role of Small Business, and Rural Ones, to Broadband Recovery

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WASHINGTON, October 28, 2009 – Assistant Secretary of Commerce Lawrence Strickling said Wednesday that the National Telecommunications and Information Administration will work to apply the lessons from the first round as it moves on to the next phase of broadband stimulus applications.

“The NTIA and RUS are finalizing a new request for information that will help us shape the round two process,” Strickling said, testifying before the House Small Business Committee. He also said that at least 15 percent of the applications for stimulus funding came from small and disadvantaged businesses.

He added that the agency’s request for information will solicit the public’s views on how the first round worked for applicants and what changes and clarifications should be made for the second round.

Strickling touted the role that broadband plays for rural communities, and also for small businesses. “If you are a small business owner without access to high-speed internet, you are effectively operating with one hand tied behind your back,” Strickling said.

He said that application process involves giving additional points to applications from economically disadvantaged businesses, and those who have collaborated with them.

Jonathan Adelstein, administrator of the Rural Utilities Service at the Agriculture Department, said that 36 percent of the loans go to start-up businesses.

“The [federal government] is committed to ensuring that SDBs [small and disadvantaged businesses] are provided careful consideration,” Adelstein said.

Adelstein also outlined details about the process of vetting broadband stimulus applications. The initial part is the review phase, with successful applications going on to the diligence phase, where applicants are asked to give advanced information as necessary to substantiate representations made in their applications.

Adelstein also discussed the “waiver authority” for the strong proposals that seek exclusion of a particular requirement – for example, the requirement that applicants provide 20 percent of funding through a private- or public-sector match. Such waivers are processed in the second phase of the vetting process.

Adelstein added that the RUS has encountered challenges as they review applications for the third round, including issues such as the complexity of the definition of remote and rural areas.

For infrastructure projects, RUS will only fund applications in which the service is 75 percent or more un¬served or underserved rural areas.

Adelstein said that the huge discussions generated by the program has facilitated potential applicants’ ability to organize themselves into groups seeking funding.“This has made their proposals more attractive to funding, and it has generated interesting developments.”

With 34 per cent of the applications coming from businesses that require less than one million dollars, these applications may get faster consideration in the second round, he said.

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BroadbandCensus.com was launched in January 2008, and uses “crowdsourcing” to collect the Broadband SPARC: Speeds, Prices, Availability, Reliability and Competition. The news on BroadbandCensus.com is produced by Broadband Census News LLC, a subsidiary of Broadband Census LLC that was created in July 2009.

A recent split of operations helps to clarify the mission of BroadbandCensus.com. Broadband Census Data LLC offers commercial broadband verification services to cities, states, carriers and broadband users. Created in July 2009, Broadband Census Data LLC produced a joint application in the NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program with Virginia Tech’s eCorridors Program. In August 2009, BroadbandCensus.com released a beta map of Columbia, South Carolina, in partnership with Benedict-Allen Community Development Corporation.

Broadband Census News LLC offers daily and weekly reporting, as well as the Broadband Breakfast Club. The Broadband Breakfast Club has been inviting top experts and policy-makers to share breakfast and perspectives on broadband technology and internet policy since October 2008. Both Broadband Census News LLC and Broadband Census Data LLC are subsidiaries of Broadband Census LLC, and are organized in the Commonwealth of Virginia. About BroadbandCensus.com.

An intern at the National Journalism Center, Mercy was a Reporter-Researcher for BroadbandCensus.com until November 2009. She was a business reporter on leave from the Daily Nation of Nairobi, Kenya. She has a bachelor’s degree in English and Education from Daystar University in Nairobi.

1 Comment

  1. Isn’t it interesting that the RUS and NTIA are touting the benefits of broadband to small businesses, and yet have excluded small businesses from being able to receive ARRA broadband grants? Yes, that’s right: the rules in the Notice of Funding Availability exclude sole proprietorships — the most common form of small business — from receiving grant money or loans.

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