As the first funding deadline for broadband stimulus arrives Thursday, Aug. 20, observers say it's hard to predict what types of grant applications will be submitted, and who will emerge as the players behind the projects.

Sunne Wright McPeak, president of the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) -- a nonprofit that is organizing groups to apply for broadband stimulus money and is providing partial matching funds -- said this week she expects most applicants from the state to be smaller telecommunications companies. The CETF reached out to larger firms, but McPeak said they weren't interested.

"The larger companies didn't want the hassle of government stipulations. The smaller ones have been cash-strapped, so we finally got them, through all of our outreach, to realize this could be an opportunity they shouldn't pass up," McPeak said. She said her organization encouraged those companies to partner with local governments, but she didn't know how many took that advice.

On the other hand, Alan Shark, executive director of the Public Technology Institute, expects fewer submissions from local government than many anticipate.

Shark's prediction seemingly downplays the high volume of applications that last week overloaded the electronic submission system used for accepting applications. He predicts many local governments will wait for the next of the three funding windows for broadband in hopes that eligibility requirements will be loosened by the National Telecommunications Administration (NTIA) and the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) -- the two federal agencies disbursing $7.2 billion set aside in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for broadband projects.

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Andy Opsahl  | 

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