BTOP Goes Out With Bang For Buck, Says Strickling

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With four days to spare, the National Telecommunications & Information Administration Monday gave out the last of its $4 billion or so in Broadband Technology Opportunities Program stimulus bucks and the up-to-$350 million it had to fund broadband mapping.

By statute, all the money had to be given out by Sept. 30.

The last of the BTOP money--$206.8 million--was divided among 14 investments for broadband adoption (6 awards over four states), for computer centers (again, six awards over six states), and two infrastructure awards to two states.

The program wound up funding 233 projects, which NTIA said are mostly so-called "middle mile" projects to establish or upgrade broadband service to some 24,000 anchor institutions including schools, libraries and hospitals.

There was also money for training and upgrading equipment. "This focus allows us to get the biggest bang for every grant dollar by addressing communities' broadband problems while creating jobs and facilitating sustainable economic growth," said NTIA Administrator Lawrence Strickling.

The projects have to be fully complete in three years, so now NTIA will move from handing out the bucks to monitoring how they are spent and to what degree they achieve the twin goals of broadband deployment/adoption and economic stimulus.

Cable operators are concerned that the money could be used to overbuild existing broadband service in competition to incumbents.

California was the biggest beneficiary both in terms of the number of grants (five) and the biggest grant. The state is getting $154.6 million to fund an interoperable public safety network in Los Angeles County.

NTIA announced a grant of $190 million for broadband mapping. It wound up spending $293 million, and the final grant will allow that mapping by all the states, territories and the District of Columbia, to continue for another three years beyond the initial two-year period envisioned.

According to the Recovery Act, which allocated the money for broadband deployment and mapping, an online, interactive national broadband map must be ready by Feb. 17, 2011.