Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Broadband provisions of U.S. economic stimulus legislation

Here are the broadband grant funding provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 signed into law today by President Barack Obama, taken from a summary of the bill prepared by the House of Representatives:

Provisions on Broadband Infrastructure

The Conference agreement creates a new Broadband Technology Opportunities Program within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (“NTIA”) of the Department of Commerce. The new grant program will distribute $4.7 billion to fund the deployment of broadband infrastructure in unserved and underseved areas in the country, and to help facilitate broadband use and adoption. An additional $2.5 billion in loans and grants will be administered by the Rural Utilities Service.

The Conference agreement combined portions of both the House and Senate bills. The main provisions of the NTIA program include:
  • Grant Recipient Criteria. Any entity is eligible to apply for a grant, including municipalities, public/private partnerships, and private companies, so long as the entity can comply with the grant conditions. Applicants must put forth 20% of the proposed project’s total cost, subject to a financial hardship waiver.
  • Grant recipients must agree to abide by a set of conditions, including adhering to a build out schedule, to interconnection and non-discrimination requirements as established by NTIA, and to the principles contained in the Federal Communications Commission’s Broadband Policy Statement. The Conference agreement does not require that grant recipients meet certain broadband speed thresholds, although the NTIA is expected to consider and support the highest possible broadband speeds in awarding grants.
  • National Broadband Plan. The Federal Communications Commission is required to develop a national broadband plan within one year.

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