In the February 24th Federal Register, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (“NTIA”) announced that it will begin holding hearings on March 2nd to discuss the broadband grant program. NTIA, a bureau within the U.S. Department of Commerce, is the President’s principal adviser on telecommunications and information policy issues.
NTIA is scheduling meetings to afford interested parties the opportunity to discuss implementation of the Broadband Grant Programs as described in the Broadband Data Services Improvement Act and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (also known as the Stimulus Package). The Broadband Data Services Improvement Act was enacted in October 2008 and directs the Secretary of Commerce to award grants to eligible entities on a competitive basis to assess, identify, and track broadband service deployment in each State. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act enacted in February 2009 directs NTIA to establish the ‘‘Broadband Technology Opportunities Program’’ to make grants available on a competitive basis to accelerate and expand broadband deployment. Parties must explain how their proposal will help deploy broadband to unserved and underserved areas.
The Recovery Act provides critical funding for programs at NTIA including:
- $4.7 billion to establish a Broadband Technology Opportunities Program for awards to eligible entities to develop and expand broadband services to rural and underserved areas and improve access to broadband by public safety agencies.
- Of these funds, $250 million will be available for innovative programs that encourage sustainable adoption of broadband services;
- At least $200 million will be available to upgrade technology and capacity at public computing centers, including community colleges and public libraries;
- $10 million will be a transfer to the Office of Inspector General for the purposes of BTOP audits and oversight.
- Up to $350 million of the BTOP funding is designated for the development and maintenance of statewide broadband inventory maps.
- $650 million for the TV Converter Box Coupon Program to allow NTIA to issue coupons to all households currently on the waiting list, to start mailing coupons via first class mail and to ensure vulnerable populations are prepared for the transition from analog-to-digital television transmission.
Among other things, NTIA also oversees the coupon program for digital television (DTV) converter boxes. (For more information about DTV, search this blog for “DTV.”)