Broadband stimulus project demand exceeds funding for second time

The Commerce Department received 867 applications requesting $11 billion in funding in proposed broadband projects across the U.S. in its second round of stimulus applications.

Just as in the first round of applications, interest far exceeded the available funding.

In the first round, nearly 2,200 bidders applied for almost $28 billion in broadband stimulus money from both the National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA) and the Department of Agriculture's RUS fund. That is nearly seven times the $4 billion available for the program in the first round.

In the second round, NTIA received applications for more than four times the available $2.6 billion in funding for braodband projects.

When including about $4.5 billion in non-Federal matching funds committed by the applicants, there are over $15.5 billion in proposed broadband projects.

NTIA said it employ a thorough review process with the goal of making the first Round 2 grant awards this summer.

“For the second round of BTOP funding, we sharpened our program focus and encouraged applicants to create comprehensive proposals to meet the needs of their communities," said Lawrence E. Strickling, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and Administrator of NTIA. "We are pleased that a high percentage of applicants appear to have met our priorities and we look forward to reviewing this more targeted pool of applications.”

In total, $7.2 billion in stimulus dollars were allocated to help the Obama administration's ambitious plan of expanding broadband services across the country.

The stimulus awards should not be affected by yesterday's court ruling that the FCC does not have the authority to impose network neutrality rules. But the larger part of the FCC's strategy, as put forth in last month's National Broadband Plan, now has new legal hurdles.