January 27, 2010 By Andy Opsahl
Broadband stimulus grant awards are being awarded on a rolling basis, with more coming from the first funding window established by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and Rural Utilities Service (RUS), the two federal agencies distributing $7.2 billion set aside in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for broadband projects. The winning projects Vice President Joe Biden announced in December 2009 were only part of what the NTIA would distribute to applicants for the first funding window.
The NTIA labels its share of the money the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). A total of 15 BTOP grants have been awarded, so far, equaling approximately $200 million.
"The strongest proposals are the ones that have taken a truly comprehensive view of the communities to be served and have engaged as many key members of the communities as possible in developing the projects," said assistant secretary for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator Lawrence Strickling in a statement.
The NTIA recently announced that a second round of BTOP applications would be accepted through March 15, 2010. The rules for applying to this funding round have were modified to make the application process more user-friendly and better target program resources, according to the NTIA.
"I encourage prospective round two BTOP applicants to study the grant announcements we are currently rolling out for guidance as they put together their own project proposals," Strickling added.
Below is a list of the most recent winner announcements, publicized on Jan. 20.
Massachusetts: University of Massachusetts-Lowell: $780,000 broadband adoption grant with an additional $196,000 in applicant-provided matching funds to promote broadband awareness and computer literacy among vulnerable populations, including the nation's second largest Cambodian population, low-income and at-risk youth, the unemployed, residents without college degrees, and senior citizens in Lowell and Merrimack Valley. As part of the program, University of Massachusetts-Lowell students will work in local computer centers with at-risk youth and seniors to develop appropriate training and outreach materials.
Michigan: Merit Network Inc.: $33.3 million infrastructure grant with an additional $8.3 million in matching funds to build a 955-mile advanced fiber-optic network through 32 counties in Michigan's Lower Peninsula. The project also intends to directly connect 44 community anchor institutions and will serve an area covering 886,000 households, 45,800 businesses and an additional 378 anchor institutions.
Michigan: Michigan State University: $895,000 public computer center grant with an additional $235,000 in matching funds to expand 84 existing library computer centers and establish four new computer centers. Computer center sites were selected by targeting underserved and high-unemployment population areas and then focusing on those libraries with the greatest need for additional computing capacity. The project will add 500 new workstations at these targeted public computer centers throughout the state and serve nearly 13,000 additional users per week.
North Carolina: MCNC: $28.2 million infrastructure grant with an additional $11.7 million in matching funds and in-kind contributions to build a 494-mile middle-mile broadband network passing almost half the population of North Carolina in 37 counties. The network will build new rings in the western and eastern regions of the state, which will connect to 685 miles of existing infrastructure in the urbanized central region, expanding the reach of the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN), an established broadband service for community anchor institutions in the state.
All over the country, community leaders are looking to boost economic development through various initiatives. One key element in many of those initiatives is the use of information technology. When local governments build IT infrastructure, create e-government applications, assist high-tech startups or otherwise focus on technology, they create conditions that draw businesses to their communities and help retain skilled workers. This paper discusses and provides examples of these various ways local government can use technology to ultimately make a community more attractive to businesses, visitors and residents.