The second and final funding window for broadband stimulus applications opened Tuesday, Feb. 16. Applicants have until March 15 to complete their submissions, which preparers are working feverishly to align with the latest broadband stimulus eligibility requirements. Given that the federal government is still holding workshops on how best to craft applications, expect a rush of submissions near the end of this funding period. Applications will go either to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) or the Rural Utilities Service (RUS), the two agencies disbursing $7.2 billion set aside in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for broadband projects.

The NTIA announced last month that it would give special priority to applications that included "anchor tenants," like hospitals, community colleges and government agencies. Any project involving such organizations should cost a minimum of $5 million, in the view of Lawrence Strickling, administrator of the NTIA. At a recent workshop in Denver, he labeled such proposals "public-private partnerships," but reassured the audience that the partnerships didn't need to involve onerous legal attachments.

"We want to know that the county development office was at least talked to and that the key anchor institutions were given an opportunity to participate. Showing in the application that the applicant has done that is really important to me," Strickling said.

He views anchor tenant participation as essential to encouraging broadband usage among resistant end-users.

"If you're not in a community where the schools, key government facilities, hospitals and libraries are hooked up, there is less [tendency] for people to see it as something they want in their homes," Strickling said.


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Andy Opsahl  |  Features Editor