• The Department of Commerce Inspector General (DOC IG) Todd Zinser has released a report calling for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to improve the way it handles complaints about Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grant awards. The report reviewed complaints lodged by San Jose and Santa Clara County, California challenging the $50.6 million BTOP award made to Motorola, Inc. for a public safety broadband network in the San Francisco Bay Area. DOC IG reviewed how NTIA handled a request from Motorola to use a different valuation method for its contribution to the project other than the way outlined in government procedures. Mr. Zinser’s report finds that NTIA’s responses to the complaints were inadequate. “We identified areas in which NTIA could have better handled both matters. For example, NTIA did not promptly engage the program’s Grants Officer to help address the complaint made against the award or to respond to Motorola’s request to be exempted from an award requirement,” the report states. The report also recommends that NTIA encourage Federal Program Officers, who monitor BTOP grants, to work with Grants Officers to ensure that important issues are addressed. A copy of the report may be found here.
  • The Rural Utilities Service (RUS) is still accepting applications for broadband access loans. These loans will be funded by the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, commonly known as the 2008 Farm Bill. RUS currently estimates that $700 million may be available from prior appropriations, but this figure may change based upon ultimate resolution of the federal budget. RUS plans to publish a subsequent notice that will identify the amount of funding available upon the enactment of the 2011 Appropriations Act. It has stated that “expenses incurred in developing the application will be at the applicant’s own risk.” The minimum loan amount is $100,000 and the maximum is $100 million. A copy of the Federal Register notice regarding the loans can be found here