Citing concerns about net neutrality and other program rules, AT&T and other major wireless and fixed line carriers indicated this week that they would not apply for grants under the $4.7 billion Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) that is being administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The BTOP forms one prong of the $7.2 billion nationwide broadband stimulus program that was established last February under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). (Under the leadership of former FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, the Rural Utilities Service is tasked with distributing the remaining $2.5 billion in ARRA broadband stimulus funds.) Although various regional carriers, including TDS Telecom and Fairpoint Communications, were expected to apply for BTOP grants by yesterday’s first round deadline, a spokesman for AT&T confirmed last Friday that “we are not able to participate in any of the broadband infrastructure stimulus projects” given “the complexity and uncertainty [the BTOP rules] create for grant applicants.” AT&T’s disclosure followed a similar pronouncement by Qwest Communications, which said it would not participate in the program. Verizon, T-Mobile USA, Comcast and Sprint Nextel also acknowledged that they would not seek first round BTOP funds, although a Sprint spokesman affirmed: “we are looking closely at all [ARRA] programs and determining which ones align with Sprint’s business strategy.” In addition to observing net neutrality rules that limit carrier web traffic management practices, BTOP fund recipients would also be barred from selling their facilities for ten years. Notwithstanding its decision, AT&T said it would be open to forming partnerships with state and local government entities that win BTOP funding. Sprint also promised it would “actively support the applications of other entities which are seeking funding for middle mile and the expansion of broadband into underserved and rural markets.”