NTIA Gives Broadband Bidders Another Extension

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The National Telecommunications & Information
Administration told Congress this week that it will reveal bidders who have
made the first cut in their pursuit of up to $1.6 billion in broadband stimulus
grant money
"no earlier" than Sept. 14,
and has given bidders another extension to file supporting materials.

Those bids are due today (Aug. 20)
at 5 p.m., after the NTIA
last week extended the deadline from Aug. 14. Even that deadline has a little
more wiggle room.

The agency said that while bids are still due Aug. 20, to
insure applications are complete and to "minimize problems," it will accept
supporting documents in the mail up to a postmark, hand delivery, or "appropriate
electronic delivery" date of Aug. 24.

In that third category, the NTIA
said some users are having trouble with uploading documents electronically, and
advised trying the Firefox Web browser as a work-around. The NTIA
said it is working to fix the problem.

After the Sept. 14 deadline for revealing finalists, the remaining
applicants will be vetted by the governor of the state for which the project is
proposed, with that information factoring into the final decision. Grants will
be awarded starting in November.

The NTIA said first round
of bids will be finished by Dec.
31, 2009. It anticipates three rounds of bidding in all for the
$4.7 billion it needs to hand out by September 2010 per congressional
instructions -- all funds must be awarded by Sept. 30.

The NTIA released its
quarterly report
to Congress Wednesday on the progress of the Broadband Technology Opportunities
Program of the stimulus package, mostly summarizing widely reported milestones
and tweaks, including modifications to the program's broadband-mapping portion,
waivers of the "buy American" provision for some equipment suppliers, the move
of the bid deadline and the hiring of consultant Booz Allen Hamilton to help
with the process.

While all the funds must be handed out by September 2010,
there will still be work for the NTIA,
including yet another Feb. 17 deadline -- this one in 2011, when a broadband
map must be posted on its Web site, again per congressional instructions.

Feb. 17 has become a familiar date. The original deadline
for the transition to digital broadcast television was Feb. 17, 2009, before it was moved to
June 12
;
and Feb. 17, 2010,
is the deadline for the Federal Communications Commission to deliver its
national broadband rollout plan to Congress
.

The NTIA won't be done with its part of the BTOP broadband
effort until at least September of 2014, according to the congressional report,
which sets that milepost for "final program audits and shut-down."

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