Feds announce billions available for broadband grants

As much as $4 billion worth of grants and loans are now available to expand high-speed broadband service in rural and underserved areas, Vice President Joe Biden announced July 1.

It is the first of three anticipated rounds of funding under the economic stimulus law. A single application form will be available for the Commerce and Agriculture departments’ broadband programs.

Applications will be accepted from July 14 to Aug. 14, according to a 121-page Notice of Funding Availability published on July 1. Additional information is available on the broadband stimulus Web site, BroadbandUSA.gov.

The economic stimulus law provided $7.2 billion for broadband expansion under programs directed by USDA’s Rural Utilities Service and Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

NTIA will invest $4.7 billion to deploy broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas, expand public computer center capacity, and encourage sustainable adoption of broadband service. The Rural Utilities Service will spend $2.5 billion to extend broadband to rural communities.

USDA also published a notice in the Federal Register July 1 stating that Buy American provisions have been waived for the broadband grants and loans because the provisions were deemed inconsistent with the goals of achieving widespread broadband capacity.