Applicants who are pursuing broadband stimulus grants intended for building broadband infrastructure received an extension Tuesday, March 2, for the second and final funding window established by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and Rural Utilities Service (RUS), the two agencies disbursing $7.2 billion set aside in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for broadband projects.
The deadline for infrastructure grants to the NTIA moved from March 15 to March 26. Applications to the RUS are now due March 29. The deadline for grants intended for public computing center and broadband adoption initiatives is still March 15 for both agencies.
The extension is an apparent reversal of an NTIA decision in late February to refuse a request from U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, to give the second-round applicants more time. Reid had sent a written request to the Obama administration for an extension, which the NTIA rejected, citing its own deadline for awarding all grants by Sept. 30, according to The Hill.
Municipal broadband analyst Craig Settles said the extension was a helpful development, but probably would have been more impactful if granted a few weeks ago. "If they had made the extension two or three weeks ago, people who have been sitting on the fence or have bowed out of the process would have stayed in," Settles said.
Settles did say the extensions offer value to applicants who have been busy moving forward with their Round 2 applications.
Settles is pleading with the NTIA and RUS to send whatever evaluation notes resulted from the 1,400 rejected applications to the applicants who submitted them. Settles believes this would give rejected applicants more specific feedback on the weaknesses of their applications and improve their resubmissions.
Representatives from the NTIA and RUS have been traveling the country and giving workshops on what they want to see in broadband stimulus applications.