Thursday, October 29, 2009

Broadband stimulus grants delayed by one month

Citing the complexity of the 2,200 applications received, federal officials have pushed back the awarding date for the first round of broadband stimulus grants from November to December. At a Senate oversight hearing Tuesday, "several lawmakers expressed frustration at how the program has been run and concerns that the money won't be spent in rural areas without decent high-speed Internet service," Amy Schatz of The Wall Street Journal reports.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D.-W.Va., raised concerns that small companies serving rural areas in his state and others found the application process too complicated to attempt. Some of the country's largest Internet providers chose not to participate in the program due to the number of qualifications required for applicants, including that they adhere to "net neutrality." (What's that? The National Press Foundation has a webinar about it on Nov. 17.)

The Government Accountability Office also listed a number of concerns about the program, including the ability of the agencies to process that many applications effectively by September 2010, when all of the $7.2 billion broadband stimulus funding must be awarded, Schatz reports. Lawmakers said they would make changes to the program for the second round of grants, and some are voicing support for pushing back the second round of application deadlines. (Read more)

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