By Tony Romm - 02/19/10 06:34 PM EST
Democrats chiefly in charge of monitoring broadband stimulus dollars released guidelines on Friday for the second round of federal grants.
About $4 billion are available for states that wish to expand broadband Internet access to underserved communities, explained Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), chairwoman of her chamber's small businesses committee, who drafted the guidelines.
Applications for that recovery act cash are due by March 15, she said in a statement.
"Increasing access to broadband internet service will help to bridge the technological divide between rural businesses and competing companies that have long benefited from access to high speed Internet service," Landrieu continued. "I encourage small business owners to apply for these competitive grants. This is an historic opportunity to both improve our communities and U.S. competitiveness."
However, the money Landrieu promoted on Friday has been in jeopardy for months now, as federal officials have struggled to process applications and award stimulus money fast enough.
A USA Today investigation revealed only 7 percent of the broadband money authorized by the 2009 federal stimulus has reached its recipients. That is immensely troubling, as the recovery act is slated to cut off that money spigot by September.