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Federal Broadband Stimulus Funds to Come in as Soon as Three Weeks

CHICAGO, November 17, 2009 – As the 121st meeting of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners kicked off Tuesday, the usual presentations on energy efficiency, commodities and electrical grid jiggering couldn’t match the drama and dilemma surrounding a topic that didn’t even exist a few decades ago: the future of broadband, and broadband stimulus money in particular.

That’s a $7.2 billion question—that number representing the amount of money federal agencies can deploy before September 2010. And the good news coming from three key federal players is that the money will start coming to states as soon as early next month, with grants rolling out through early 2010.



CHICAGO, November 17, 2009 – As the 121st meeting of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners kicked off Tuesday, the usual presentations on energy efficiency, commodities and electrical grid jiggering couldn’t match the drama and dilemma surrounding a topic that didn’t even exist a few decades ago: the future of broadband, and broadband stimulus money in particular.

That’s a $7.2 billion question—that number representing the amount of money federal agencies can deploy before September 2010. And the good news coming from three key federal players is that the money will start coming to states as soon as early next month, with grants rolling out through early 2010.

The first rounds dished out by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the U.S. Rural Utilities Service (RUS) won’t nearly match the demand, though. With 2,200 applications on file, Washington would need many times the available funding. “It’s just stunning the creativity and industriousness in these proposals,” said Lawrence Strickling, NTIA’s director. “It’s sad we don’t have the money to fund them all; we were oversubscribed seven times.”

The good news is that the NTIA and RUS have a request for information (RFI) out, with a November 30 deadline, as it seeks input from states to tweak and streamline the application process. This marks a prelude to second round of funding that would include a longer application window before funds must be distributed by September 2010.

Of the $2.5 billion available to the RUS, loans to applicants would allow some leveraging, said Jonathan Adelstein, RUS administrator. “We can leverage it up to $7 billion or $9 billion; whatever we use for loans we can leverage up to 14 to 1,” he said. “We want to use that money to service the more rural and difficult-to-reach areas.”

The RUS oversees quite a large footprint; 72 percent of the United States is rural land mass. Quite a bit of that represents underserved or unserved area, and Adelstein said his agency is doing all it can to get his funds out, also starting in early December.

The time crunch has meant viewing funding and loan applications at breakneck speed, and Adelstein told about 200 attendees “you can help us with the map, to flag the areas that are truly unserved or underserved.”

In reviewing its 2,200 applications, the NTIA has certain hoops that must be cleared by those hoping to get that broadband money. In terms of the middle mile paradigm, “We’re finding it’s very important that communities have high-speed fiber, and that [public and private] institutions are able to subscribe to this fiber,” Strickling said. For example, applicants who know, and can demonstrate, that a private hospital had $30,000 to branch into a fiber-optic trunk have gone the extra mile in impressing the NTIA. We’d like to see that applicants have dealt with that on the front end. We have a higher degree of confidence when we see that.”

Second is sustainability; “Is the project going to be there in five years? Part of that is seeing how reliable the numbers are,” Strickling said.

In a move that likely deflected criticism and tough questions, Strickling and Adelstein acknowledged that the application process needed reform and streamlining—and that this remained an ongoing priority, as shown in the current RFI.

Both men urged attendees to keep their eye on the big picture, and what the broadband stimulus funds could accomplish. “This is such an extraordinary opportunity,” Adelstein said. “The whole time I was [a commissioner] on the FCC, I was talking about doing this, and here we are. We can’t let the rural areas fall behind. We’ve got to get it out there.”

That theme was echoed by Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, who anchored Tuesday’s opening meeting by touting his state’s ongoing efforts to achieve broadband parity between rural areas and the city—and efforts to bring health care and public safety information sharing into the 21st Century and beyond.

A longtime advocate for citizens in the utilities sector, Quinn took over from impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich in February, making a forceful turn in state policy regarding broadband policy and implementation.

Tipping his hat to fellow Illinois politician—President Barack Obama—Quinn said: “It’s time to take the ideas and visions of his campaign and turn them into reality. That’s why I’m impressed with the federal stimulus bill; it provides a lot of money for broadband initiatives.”

Quinn, who founded Illinois Citizens Utility Board 25 years ago, stressed that states can’t merely wait for Washington to solve their broadband issues and shortcomings. “We try as much as possible to work with our communities in broadband development on Main Street,” he said. “But clearly, the broadband initiative represents the opportunity of a lifetime.”

And the challenge of a lifetime as well. Quinn said that as governor, perhaps his most urgent broadband goal remains creating new infrastructure. That is, as roads are renovated, Quinn wants an information highway built into every highway.

“The opportunity to link up with the federal government and form an information highway that links so many aspects of our society—health care, public safety, education—is our biggest challenge,” he said. “We have some catching up to do with other countries in terms of creating a robust system. But if 50 years from now, we can look back and say the information highway got done, I’d be happy.”

Not that the Obama administration is intent on hurrying things too much to meet the crushing need. Asked if he might be tempted to shortcut due diligence in reviewing applications in a rush to funding, Strickling broke up the audience with his one-word, emphatic answer: “No.”

Editor’s Note: Special Corresponent Lou Carlozo can be reached at


State Broadband Offices Need to Increase Their Capacity, Improve Data, and Communicate Well

NTIA’s Evan Feinman spoke about what states need to keep in mind as they prepare for BEAD funds.



Photo of Evan Feinman from AEI

WASHINGTON, May 18, 2022 – The National Telecommunications and Information Administration webinar event on Tuesday focused on the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Notice of Funding Opportunity. The webinar highlighted three important items to keep in mind as states begin to receive money for broadband planning.

The first, according to Evan Feinman, deputy associate administrator for BEAD, was for states to consider your office’s capacity. Each state will receive a minimum of $100 million. Very few states have the human resources required to adequately run a program of this magnitude, he said.

The second is to build up research and data collections of broadband coverage at a state level. The Federal Communications Commission will soon release a new mapping system. It will be necessary, said Feinman, to “engage meaningfully” with these maps using state’s own research and data. Furthermore, states should have the necessary data to engage with internet service providers and the NTIA as they determine who is served and unserved.

Third, states should develop a clear-cut plan for outreach and communication support with stakeholders. Stakeholders include telecom providers, tribal governments, local governments, and community organizations.

The planning step is a great point for stakeholders to become involved in the process, said Feinman. “There is an expectation that lives throughout this program that folks are going to engage really thoroughly and in an outgoing way with their stakeholders.”

See other articles on the NTIA webinars issues in the wake of the Notices of Funding Opportunity on the Broadband.Money community:

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Treasury Department Joins FCC, USDA and NTIA in Collaborating on Broadband Funding

Agency leaders sign pact to formalize information-sharing on broadband deployment projects.



Photo of Janet Yellen from January 2018 by the European Central Bank

WASHINGTON, May 13, 2022—Just in advance of the deadline for the release of the funding requirements under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs act, the four principal federal agencies responsible for broadband funding released an interagency agreement to share information about and collaborate regarding the collection and reporting of certain data and metrics relating to broadband deployment.

The agencies are the Federal Communications Commission, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration of the Commerce Department, and the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

The Memorandum of Understanding is the latest development in federal efforts to coordinate high-speed internet spending, and the Treasury Department is the new addition to agreement.

The other three agencies signed a prior memorandum in June 2021 to coordinate the distribution of federal high-speed internet funds. That June 2021 Memorandum of Understanding remains in effect.

The respective Cabinet and Agency leaders announced that their agencies will consult with one another and share information on data collected from programs administered by the FCC, the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service, programs administered or coordinated by NTIA, and Treasury’s Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund and State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund.

“No matter who you are or where you live in this country, you need access to high-speed internet to have a fair shot at 21st century success. The FCC, NTIA, USDA and Treasury are working together like never before to meet this shared goal,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “Our new interagency agreement will allow us to collaborate more efficiently and deepen our current data sharing relationships[and] get everyone, everywhere connected to the high-speed internet they need.”

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, “When we invest in rural infrastructure, we invest in the livelihoods and health of people in rural America. High-speed internet is the new electricity.  It is necessary for Americans to do their jobs, to participate equally in school learning, to have access to health care and to stay connected.”

“USDA remains committed to being a strong partner with rural communities and our state, Tribal and federal partners in building ‘future-proof’ broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas so that we finally reach 100 percent high-speed broadband coverage across the country.”

“Our whole-of-government effort to expand broadband adoption must be coordinated and efficient if we are going to achieve our mission,” said Alan Davidson, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information and head of the NTIA, the agency responsible for administering the vast bulk of the broadband funding.

“This MOU will allow us to build the tools we need for even better data-sharing and transparency in the future,” he said.

“Treasury is proud to work with our federal agency partners to achieve President Biden’s goal of closing the nation’s digital divide,” said U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen.  “Access to affordable, high-speed internet is critical to the continued strength of our economy and a necessity for every American household, school, and business.”

As part of the signed agreement, each federal agency partner will share information about projects that have received or will receive funding from the previously mentioned federal funding sources.  More information on what the interagency Memorandum of Understanding entails can be found on the FCC’s website.  The agreement is effective at the date of its signing, May 11, 2022.

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FCC and NTIA Chiefs Name Jessica Quinley, Douglas Brake and Timothy May to Advisory Committees

NTIA representatives to join FCC technology and security committees, FCC rep on spectrum committee



Photo of Doug Brake from Information Technology and Innovation Foundation

WASHINGTON, March 18, 2022—Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel and Assistant Secretary of Commerce Alan Davidson on Friday named staff representatives to participate on each other’s advisory committees. The effort is a component of the Spectrum Coordination Initiative of the FCC and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration of the Commerce Department.

As part of the initiative, the agencies are working with each other and the private sector.

“To succeed as spectrum partners, the FCC and NTIA must hear from and listen to each other in both formal and informal ways,” said Rosenworcel.

“A common understanding of spectrum engineering and market conditions is essential for the success of our efforts at the FCC and NTIA to manage the country’s spectrum resources,” said Davidson.

Rosenworcel named Jessica Quinley of the FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau to participate as an observer in NTIA’s Commerce Spectrum Management Advisory Committee. Quinley currently serves as an Acting Legal Advisor in the FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau. She was an attorney at NTIA for more than four years.

Davidson named Douglas Brake, a Spectrum Policy Specialist, and Timothy May, a Senior Advisor, to participate in the FCC’s Technological Advisory Council and its Communications Security, Reliability, and Interoperability Council, respectively.

Brake, a Spectrum Policy Specialist with NTIA, previously directed the broadband and spectrum policy work at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.  May currently serves as a Senior Advisor in the Office of the Assistant Secretary where he has worked for four years.  Before joining NTIA, he was a Policy Analyst in the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau.

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