A single project in Idaho has finally been awarded a grant from the federal government intended to improve broadband Internet access in rural areas.
According to a press release, the Coeur d’Alene Tribe Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) Project has been awarded $6,142,879 in loans and $6,142,879 in grants to provide a FTTH broadband system offering broadband services to anchor institutions, critical community facilities, and approximately 3,770 unserved and underserved households in the communities of Plummer, Worley, Tensed, and DeSmet, as well as isolated farms and rural home sites on the Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation in North Idaho.
Three other Idaho projects could still be awarded funds. Several others have received rejection notices, according to an article by Gavin Dahl in the Boise Weekly.
In the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, also known as the stimulus package, Congress appropriated $7.2 billion for broadband grants, loans, and loan guarantees to be administered by the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) and the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). There are two programs: RUS Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP) and the NTIA Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). BIP will make loans and grants for broadband infrastructure projects in rural areas, while BTOP will provide grants to fund broadband infrastructure, public computer centers and sustainable broadband adoption project.
These awards were for the first round of funding, the deadline for which was August of this year. The first phase awards $4 billion, a little more than half of the total $7.2 billion. While the federal government had said all awards would be made by the end of February, a representative said this week that they would all be made by March 15.
Deadlines for the second round are later this month. Applicants for Comprehensive Community Infrastructure projects have received an extension until March 26 to file their applications, while applicants for infrastructure projects will have until March 29. th to file their applications to RUS. Applications for Public Computer Centers and Sustainable Broadband Adoption remain due on March 15th. While the application period began on February 15, no applications from Idaho companies for Idaho projects had yet been received, according to the broadbandusa.gov website.
The Federal Communications Commission is scheduled to release later this month its National Broadband Plan, after issuing a preliminary report on the subject last spring. The report was required by the Recovery Act of 2009, signed a year ago by President Obama, and originally due on February 17, but was extended by a month, though the agency released a preliminary 56-page PowerPoint presentation on that date. However, analysts familiar with the plan are already saying it’s too broad.