Vice President Joe Biden used the setting of a fabrication plant in Dawsonville, Ga., to announce the first 18 winning bidders in 17 states for $182 million in broadband stimulus funds.
The balance of the first round of winners will be announced on a rolling schedule between now and February, according to NTIA.
Most of the just-announced winners are for "middle mile" projects ($121 million to improve connections to communities, with $51.4 million going to last-mile projects that connect end-users like homes, schools and hospitals. Another $7.3 million went to expand computer center capacity in libraries community centers and colleges, with another $2.4 million to promote adoption.
Projects in Georgia, Maine, New York and South Dakota got the middle mile money from NTIA, while the Department of Agriculture's RUS program gave out middle and last-mile money (grants and loans) to Alaska, Hawaii, Colorado, Nebraska, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma.
NTIA awarded the adoption money to New Mexico and Washington state, and the computer center funding to Arizona, Minnesota, Washington, Arizona and Massachusetts.
Massachusetts legislators led by Sen. John Kerry were quick to ally themselves with the potential broadband benefits to their constituents, pointing out that Boston had received $1.9 million in computer center money. Kerry called it "a significant step toward bridging the digital divide" and said it would give Boston residents "critical access to computers and new training."
Free Press had nice things to say about the first awards, calling the announcement "a welcome holiday gift for the thousands of Americans living in these areas that have yet to know the transformative benefits of broadband technology," and praising the emphasis on middle mile projects. "We are especially pleased to see the Commerce Department's emphasis on middle-mile grants -- an often overlooked piece of the broadband puzzle that is essential to ensuring that consumers in these areas have access to affordable broadband services that can scale as demand grows," said Free Press Policy Director Ben Scott in a statement.
NTIA and RUS have a total of $7.2 billion to give out in two rounds of funding ($4.7 for NTIA, another $2.5 billion in grants and loans from RUS).
While Biden was talking about the grant money going to a Georgia project, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke was in Maine to plug the $25.4 million that state was getting for infrastructure. In addition, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is scheduled to go to Ohio next week to promote the $2.4 million it got for its smart energy grid.