July 20, 2009 By Andy Opsahl
CIOs of municipal governments are worried they won't have enough time to meet the Aug. 14 application deadline for the first round of grants set aside for broadband projects in the U.S. economic stimulus package.
Local governments had expected 60 to 90 days for preparation, based on what they heard in meetings with the Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service (RUS) -- the two agencies that are doling out the total $7.2 billion of stimulus money for broadband. Instead, the agencies released a notice of funds availability (NOFA) that gave governments little more than 30 days.
"There is extreme concern that there is not enough time to do a good job because there are a lot of pieces that still haven't been figured out," said Alan Shark, executive director of the Public Technology Institute (PTI), a peer industry organization that serves government IT departments.
One concern is how local governments will get the application's required signatures of endorsement from key players, like state officials, in time for the deadline.
"Some of the elements people are most frustrated by have been well known. It's just that people thought they could wait until the NOFA actually came out. Those who waited for the NOFA to come out are at a disadvantage," Shark said, later adding, "We have been telling our members for the last three months to start contacting people in their states."