The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) recently announced that it plans to award approximately $2.6 billion in Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grants funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 in the second—and final round—of funding.
BTOP provides grants for deploying broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas of the United States, enhancing broadband capacity at public computer centers, and promoting sustainable broadband adoption projects. For this final round of funding, BTOP grants will be available for:
- Comprehensive Community Infrastructure (CCI) projects. In this round, approximately $2.35 billion will go toward funding CCI projects that focus on Middle Mile broadband infrastructure projects that offer new or substantially upgraded service to community anchor institutions; incorporate a public–private partnership among government, nonprofit, and for–profit entities, and other key community stakeholders; bolster growth in economically distressed areas; commit to serve community colleges and public safety entities; include a Last Mile infrastructure component in unserved or underserved areas or, alternatively, commitment letters from one or more Last Mile broadband service providers; and propose to contribute a non–federal cost match that equals or exceeds 30 percent of the total eligible costs of the project. Definitions of Middle Mile and Last Mile can be found on page 3798 of the Notice of Funds Availability (NOFA).
- Public Computer Center (PCC) projects. In this round, NTIA has earmarked $150 million to support PCC projects that help expand public access to broadband service and enhance broadband capacity at public libraries, community colleges, and other institutions that serve the general public.
- Sustainable Broadband Adoption (SBA) projects. In this round, at least $100 million will support SBA projects that promote broadband demand, such as those focused on broadband education, awareness, training, access, equipment, or support, particularly among vulnerable populations.
The complete NOFA can be found in the January 22, 2010 edition of the Federal Registe. The BTOP Fact Sheet is also available online.
How Round Two Differs from Round One
Based on feedback and the experience gained from administering the first round of funding, NTIA is making a number of changes to BTOP to increase efficiency, sharpen the program's funding focus, and improve the applicant experience. These changes include:
- The joint NTIA and Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service (RUS) application process from the first round has been eliminated. Instead, each agency issued its own NOFA and will use its own separate applications and apply its own separate funding priorities.
- NTIA has improved the online application to streamline the intake of information and make the process more user–friendly. Improvements include reducing the number of attachments to be uploaded with the application, eliminating the proposed funded service area mapping tool, and modifying the service area delineations from Census blocks to Census tracts and block groups.
- NTIA no longer will require that an infrastructure project serve an unserved or underserved area. However, priority will be given to projects that are located in such areas and they do intend to carefully evaluate the extent to which proposed projects overbuild existing broadband infrastructure.
Applying for BTOP Funding
All applications must be submitted electronically. Application packages for electronic submissions will be available at www.broadbandusa.gov.
All applications for funding BTOP projects must be submitted between February 16, 2010 at 8 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST) and March 15, 2010 at 5 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT).
Technical Assistance Workshops to Help with the Application Process
NTIA will host a series of public workshops connected to the application process for the second round of broadband grants and loans. The workshops are free and open to the general public. More information on these workshops including dates and locations. For those who are unable to attend the workshops, NTIA will stream its Broadband Technology Opportunities Program workshop live from Denver, CO on Friday, January 29, starting at 9 a.m. Mountain Standard Time (MST) (11 a.m. EST). The webcast will be archived and available for reference 3-5 days after streaming.
For general inquiries regarding BTOP or questions regarding the NOFA, contact:
Broadband Technology Opportunities Program
National Telecommunications and Information Administration
U.S. Department of Commerce
HCHB, Room 4812
1401 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20230
Contact the Broadband Help Desk at 1-877-508-8364 or via e-mail.