The two federal agencies administering the $7.2 billion broadband stimulus program have extended the deadline for the first round of grant applications to Aug. 20, in part because of heavy volume.
The initial round of the broadband programs, a $7.2 billion initiative carved out of the nearly $800 billion economic stimulus package, had set a deadline of 5 p.m. on Aug 14 for applications. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service are administering the plans. The initial round was mainly for last mile and middle mile projects in unserved and underserved areas of the country.
The NTIA is expected to dole out about $1.6 billion in funding for the first round through the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), with the RUS awarding about $2.4 billion through the Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP). The agencies have said that up to two additional rounds of funding will commence before Sept. 30, 2010.
According to a joint statement from NTIA and RUS, over the last several days the online application system (the Easygrants System) of the programs "has experienced service delays due to the volume of activity from potential applicants." The agencies have added additional servers to address the capacity issues, but both decided it was necessary to extend the deadline for online applications "in an effort to give applicants that have already started the electronic application submission process prior to the application closing deadline an opportunity to complete the submission of those applications." The extension is only for those applicants with applications pending in the Easygrants system as of 5 p.m. on Aug. 14.
It was feared that many small cable operators (among the constituents the broadband program was created to help) were holding back on filing applications in the first round because of their concerns over some of the conditions of the stimulus.
NTIA spokesman Mark Tolbert said that heavy volume is what prompted the decision to extend the deadline. He added that the agency plans to submit its BTOP quarterly report to Congress on Aug. 17, which also should have additional details on the program's progress and a milestone schedule.
Tolbert added that the agency hasn't fully quantified the number of applications it has received so far but plans to do so in the next few days, including a breakdown of the types of applicants that are filing. Tolbert added that the NTIA also plans to post executive summaries of each application on its Web site (www.ntia.doc.gov ) in that same time frame.