August 13, 2009 By Andy Opsahl
The first deadline for broadband stimulus applications has been extended from Aug. 14 to Aug. 20, according to an announcement from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and Rural Utilities Service (RUS) posted on BroadbandUSA.gov. The two agencies are disbursing $7.2 billion -- $4 billion of it allotted for the current deadline -- set aside in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for broadband projects. However, there is a sticking point. Applicants must have initiated their electronic submissions by the original deadline of Aug. 14. They simply don't need to have completed their submissions until Aug. 20.
The federal government's electronic applications tool, called Easygrants System, has experienced service delays over the past several days due to the volume of activity from potential applicants, according to the joint announcement from the NTIA and RUS. The agencies have deployed additional servers to handle the demand, but they're allowing the extra time to ensure that no future delays obstruct submissions initiated on time. Oakland, Calif.-based broadband analyst Craig Settles commented that state and local governments could use the next seven days to tweak their applications before completing their submissions on Aug. 20.
According to the federal announcement, to officially have initiated submission, the applicant needs to complete the following five steps before 5 p.m. on Aug. 14:
Settles views the situation as vindicating his opinion that the NTIA and RUS should have offered a 30-day deadline several weeks ago. He thinks the agencies should give themselves even more time to thoroughly fortify the Easygrants System for mass volume. He predicts more technical problems will occur after Aug. 14.
"We have mayhem and confusion, or at least you will by Sunday. My thinking is that if the process is slowed down after just some of the applicants came full bore, once tomorrow hits and all of these things hit the system, where do you go from there? How much time and misery is that going to be?" Settles said.