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Big Broadband Stimulus Grants for Middle-Mile Networks in N.C. and Michigan

in Broadband Stimulus by

WASHINGTON, January 20, 2010 – The National Telecommunications and Information Administration on Wednesday continued its rolling award of broadband stimulus grants, doling out $63 million for four broadband grants in Massachusetts, Michigan and North Carolina.

With the announcements, the NTIA and the Rural Utilities Service have awarded $253 million in broadband stimulus grants, or about 3.5 percent of the total broadband stimulus funds. The money has been spent on 23 projects so far, or an average of $11 million per grant.

The largest winners in Tuesday’s announcements were the Merit Network in Michigan, which won $33 million; and MCNC in North Carolina, which won $28.2 million. Both were for infrastructure grants to build fiber-optic networks within their states, connecting households and anchor institutions to broadband facilities.

The University of Massachusetts at Lowell won a broadband adoption grant of $780,000 to connect Cambodian immigrants and seniors to broadband facilities in Lowell and Merrimack Valley; and Michigan State University won $895,000 in a public computing center grant.

Separately, the NTIA confirmed that it will also begin disclosing “losers” as well as “winners” in broadband stimulus applications – once applicants have begun to receive their rejection letters.

On the NTIA’s searchable database, under the “status” window, individuals may currently search projects by these categories: “Awarded,” “Ineligible,” “Withdrawn” and “Received.”

In North Carolina, MCNC CEO Joe Freddoso said that the grant “was everything that we asked for.”

“Our application was to scale to meet the needs of educational institutions,” said Feddoso. “We also saw the opportunity to work with the private sector to help catalyze opportunities.”

MCNC’s $28.2 million infrastructure grant was submitted with an additional $11.7 million in matching funds and in-kind contributions to build a 494-mile middle-mile broadband network passing almost half the population of North Carolina in 37 counties.

Of the $11.7 million, $4 million was invested from the portfolio of MCNC, a non-profit organization, and $4 million was invested by the project’s for-profit partner, FRC, said Freddoso.

FRC is a subsidiary of Scana, a publicly-traded electricity and natural gas provider. These utilities have access to extensive fiber-optic lines used to help monitor electrical grids, said Freddoso.

The MCNC network will build new rings in the western and eastern regions of the state, which will connect to 685 miles of existing infrastructure in the urbanized central region, expanding the reach of the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN), an established broadband service for community anchor institutions in the state.

In Michigan, the Merit Network’s $33.3 million infrastructure grant was supplemented by an additional $8.3 million in matching funds to build a 955-mile advanced fiber-optic network through 32 counties in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, said NTIA.

The Michigan project also intends to directly connect 44 community anchor institutions and will serve an area covering 886,000 households, 45,800 businesses, and an additional 378 anchor institutions.

On Friday, NTIA announced a second round of broadband stimulus applications will be accepted through March 15, 2010. The rules for applying to this funding round have been modified to make the application process more user-friendly and better target program resources, said NTIA.

“High-speed Internet access is the lifeblood of today’s economy,” Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said in a statement. “These grants are an important step toward expanding high-speed Internet access into the unserved and underserved areas of the country.”

“The level of interest in this program has been extraordinary, and is yet another indicator of the critical role broadband plays in achieving durable, sustainable economic growth,” said Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator Lawrence Strickling.

“Like the grants announced today, the strongest proposals are the ones that have taken a truly comprehensive view of the communities to be served and have engaged as many key members of the communities as possible in developing the projects,” said Strickling.

At least one broadband expert said that critics of the NTIA and RUS may be proved wrong.

“All of NTIA’s stimulus awards so far have been for very impressive projects, and many more are in the pipeline,” said attorney James Baller of Baller Herbst.  ”Within a few weeks, some of the most vocal critics of NTIA may be eating their words.”

White House Official to Headline Broadband Stimulus National Town Hall Meeting on June 4

in Broadband Calendar by

A special live Webcast event presented by TV Worldwide, National League of Cities TV, TV Mainstream and BroadbandCensus.com

Press Release

WASHINGTON, June 3, 2009 – Jim Kohlenberger, Chief of Staff in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, has confirmed that he will headline the Broadband Stimulus National Town Hall Meeting, live on the Internet, on Thursday, June 4, from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. ET.

The free webcast is being produced by BroadbandCensus.com, in cooperation with TV Worldwide, National League of Cities TV, and TV Mainstream.

Registration is available at http://www.nlctv.org/events/broadbandstimulus_thm/090604

With the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) scheduled to release their first Notices of Funds Availability (NoFA) by the end of June, the topic of broadband stimulus remains extremely timely. Applicants will be expected to know and understand the landscape as they prepare their submissions.

This June 4 webcast is the first of two planned town hall meetings on the broadband stimulus. The second, a the Broadband Stimulus Workshop Webcast, is planned for Thursday, July 9, 2009, from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. That is after the expected release of the NoFA.

Registration for the June 4 event is available at http://www.nlctv.org/events/broadbandstimulus_thm/090604

The webcast will be jointly hosted by Drew Clark, Executive Director of BroadbandCensus.com and Marty Stern, Partner at K&L Gates. This webcast will focus on three areas with discussion by the following speakers:

Special Introductory Remarks

  • Jim Kohlenberger, Chief of Staff, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

The Broadband Stimulus and Tribal Initiatives

  • Deswood Tome, Executive Director, Navajo Nation Telecommunications Regulatory Authority

Scoring Grants – The latest thinking on how projects will be evaluated. What we know and what we’ve learned from other grant programs that can be applied to the broadband stimulus:

  • Joanne Hovis, Columbia Telecommunications Corporation
  • Lisa Scalpone, Vice President of Legal and Government Affairs, WildBlue
  • Scott Wallsten, Vice President, Research, Technology Policy Institute
  • Rich Wonders, Vice President, Strategic Marketing, Alcatel-Lucent

Show me the Money – What sources of private financing are available to help capitalize broadband stimulus projects

  • John Badal, CEO, Sacred Wind Communications
  • James Owen, Director, Bank Street Group
  • Tim Nulty, Chairman, ECFiberNet, the East Central Vermont Community Fiber-Optic Network

Public Private Partnerships – What are they expected to look like and how important will they be to a successful grant application

  • Jim Baller, President, Baller Herbst Law Group
  • Jonathan Banks, Senior Vice President, Law and Policy, US Telecom Association
  • John Goodman, President and CEO, A-Vu Media
  • Dan Gillison, National Director, State and Local, and Public Safety Sales, Sprint Nextel Corporation

For individuals  whose schedule do not permit attendance during the live broadcast, archived recordings of the event will be available on TV Mainstream.

Logistical Details

Thursday, June 4, 2009 from 2:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. ET

Online Webcast

To register: Click here to register for the webcast

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