First Broadband Stimulus Awards Announced

Vice President Joseph Biden announces $183 million in broadband stimulus awards.

by / December 17, 2009

The first wave of broadband stimulus awards were announced today by Vice President Joseph Biden in Dawsonville, Ga. Biden detailed $183 million in broadband projects going to 17 states. More than $46 million in matching funds from public- and private-sector sources is already attached to the federal grants, according to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), one of two federal agencies charged with disbursing $7.2 billion set aside in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) for broadband projects.

"New broadband access means more capacity and better reliability in rural areas and underserved urban communities around the country. Businesses will be able to improve their customer service and better compete around the world," said Biden in a statement.

The money will roll out to the recipients over the next 75 days.

Awards fell under four general categories. The most funded category was Middle Mile, which refers to a backbone infrastructure serving several counties. Broadband delivery hardware is extended by individual parties from that backbone. The second category was Last Mile, referring to the equipment extending from the middle mile infrastructure to bring broadband directly to homes, offices and other buildings. The third category was Public Computing, translating to public computer labs in libraries, community centers and similar locations. The fourth and least funded category was Sustainable Adoption, dedicated to promoting broadband subscriptions to communities typically hesitant to purchase services.

Oakland, Calif.-based municipal broadband analyst Craig Settles ventured a guess as to why the NTIA put the most of its funding toward middle mile projects.

"It looks like the NTIA is establishing parameters for a path of least resistance," Settles commented, explaining that administrating just a handful of middle mile projects -- each serving several counties -- was easier than administrating numerous last mile projects, which often serve only one county or city. Obviously both middle mile and last mile projects are needed to deliver broadband to unserved citizens. However, being in charge of the broader, middle mile portion is simpler, in Settles' view.


Four types of awards were made today:

  • Middle Mile Awards -- $121.6 million to build and improve connections to communities lacking sufficient broadband access.
  • Last Mile Awards -- $51.4 million to connect end-users like homes, hospitals and schools to their community's broadband infrastructure (the middle mile).
  • Public Computing -- $7.3 million to expand computer center capacity for public use in libraries, community colleges and other public venues.
  • Sustainable Adoption -- $2.4 million to fund innovative projects that promote broadband demand with population groups where the technology has traditionally been underutilized.

The NTIA will disburse the following Middle Mile awards:

Georgia: North Georgia Network Cooperative Inc. -- $33.5 million grant with an additional $8.8 million in matching funds to deploy a 260-mile regional fiber-optic ring to deliver gigabit broadband speeds, reliability, affordability and abundant interconnection points for last mile service in the north Georgia foothills.

Maine: Biddeford Internet Corp. -- $25.4 million grant with an additional $6.4 million in matching funds to build a 1,100-mile open access fiber-optic network extending to the most rural and disadvantaged areas of Maine, from the Saint John Valley in the north, to the rocky coastline of downeast Maine, to the mountainous regions of western Maine.

New York: ION Hold Co. -- $39.7 million grant with an additional $9.9 million in matching funds to build 10 new segments of fiber-optic, middle mile broadband infrastructure, serving more than 70 rural communities in upstate New York and parts of Pennsylvania and Vermont.

South Dakota: South Dakota Network -- $20.6 million grant with an additional $5.1 million in matching funds to add 140 miles of backbone network

and 219 miles of middle mile spurs to existing network, enabling the delivery of at least 10 Mbps service to more than 220 existing anchor institution customers in rural and underserved areas of the state.

The NTIA will disburse the following Public Computer Center awards:

Arizona: Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records -- $1.3 million grant with matching funds of $320,000 to enhance existing facilities in more than 80 public libraries throughout the state. The project expects to deploy more than 1,000 computers to meet growing demand.

Massachusetts: Boston -- $1.9 million grant with matching funds of $477,000 to expand computer and Internet capacity at the city's main library and 25 branches, 16 community centers and 11 public housing sites.

Minnesota: Regents of the University of Minnesota -- $2.9 million grant with matching funds of $741,000 to enhance broadband awareness and use for residents in four federally designated poverty zones in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Washington: The Inland Northwest Community Access Network (Tincan) -- $1.3 million grant with matching funds of $753,000 to establish three new public computer centers and expand 14 existing centers throughout Spokane's poorest neighborhoods to serve more than 5,000 additional users per week.

The NTIA will disburse the following Sustainable Broadband Adoption awards:

New Mexico: New Mexico State Library -- $1.5 million grant with an additional $591,000 in matching funds to increase broadband adoption and promote computer literacy and Internet use among vulnerable populations, Hispanic and Native American users, small businesses and entrepreneurs through training and outreach statewide.

Washington: The Inland Northwest Community Access Network -- $981,000 grant with an additional $728,000 in matching funds to increase broadband adoption through basic and advanced computer skill training, as well as community-based outreach campaigns to highlight the benefits of broadband for vulnerable populations in Spokane.

The Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service will disburse the following Last Mile and Middle Mile awards:

Alaska: Anchorage, Rivada Sea Lion -- $25.3 million grant with $6.4 million of leveraged funds; 4G high-speed broadband internet service availability to more than 9,000 unserved locations in a 90,000-square-mile area where these southwestern Alaska inhabitants are living at subsistence level.

Hawaii: Big Island Broadband/Aloha Broadband Inc. -- $106,503 loan with matching funds of $87,405 to bring broadband services to an unserved area in the northern part of the islands where there are nearly 600 residents and businesses.

Colorado/Nebraska: Peetz, Colorado, Peetz Cooperative Telephone Co. -- $1.5 million grant; expansion of existing infrastructure utilizing a combination of technologies. This project will make broadband service available to as many as 550 locations in the service area.

Michigan: The Chatham Telephone Co. -- $8.6 million grant to bring high-speed DSL broadband service to remote, unserved businesses and households within its rural territory; service that is comparable to the DSL service provided in its more populated areas.

New Hampshire: Bretton Woods, The Bretton Woods Telephone Company -- $985,000 grant for 20 Mbps two-way broadband service to all potential customers and stimulate tourism in the area to substantially improve the local economy. This Fiber to The Premise service will be available to more than 400 locations.

New York: Potsdam, Slic Network Solutions (Nicholville Telephone) -- a grant of $4.3 million and loan of $1.1 million for a 136-mile fiber-optic network reaching into five towns in rural Franklin County. This all-fiber network will deliver broadband voice, and IPTV services to remote rural areas. The network will offer service to more than 6,500 locations.

Ohio: North Central Ohio Rural Fiber Optic Network, Consolidated Electric Cooperative -- $1,034,413 grant and $1,399,499 loan; and matching funds of $1,225,000. The funding is integral to a smart grid initiative and broadband service based on an open-connectivity fiber-optic backbone network.

Oklahoma: Southeast Oklahoma, The Pine Telephone Co. -- $9.5 grant with an additional $4.6 million in private funds to provide services to an entirely remote, rural, unserved and severely economically disadvantaged community.


Andy Opsahl

Andy Opsahl is a former writer and features editor for Government Technology magazine.