On July 1, 2009, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) released a Notice of Funds Availability (NOFA) and solicited applications for broadband projects to be funded under the stimulus programs established by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). The NOFA will serve as a guide for applicants for loans and grants from the more than $7 billion appropriated for broadband projects. NTIA also has solicited applications for funding to conduct the State Broadband Data and Development Program (BDIA), established by ARRA to fund broadband data collection and mapping projects and statewide broadband planning initiatives.
The application filing window for the broadband stimulus programs will open on July 14, 2009, and will close on August 14, 2009. Applications for funding in amounts greater than $1 million must be submitted electronically. Both NTIA and RUS intend to announce funding awards in early November 2009 and will require awardees to immediately complete documentation and begin the funded work. RUS also intends to schedule all loan closings within 60 days following the award announcement. Throughout the application review process unsuccessful applicants will be notified that their project will not be funded.
NTIA and RUS may award up to $4 billion in this initial funding round. RUS has dedicated ARRA funds totaling $2.4 billion to support the following categories of broadband infrastructure projects through grants, loans and grant/loan combinations: Last Mile projects ($1.2 billion), divided into Remote Area projects ($400 million) and Non-Remote Area projects ($800 million), and Middle Mile projects ($800 million). NTIA dedicated $1.4 billion to support Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) projects ($1.2 billion), Public Computer Center projects ($50 million), and Sustainable Broadband Adoption projects ($150 million). NTIA and RUS are prepared to allocate additional funds from other appropriations to support the broadband projects.
Under the NOFA, many types of entities may apply for funding, including state and local governments, agencies, subdivisions, instrumentalities and political subdivisions; the District of Columbia; U.S. territories and possessions; Indian Tribes; native Hawaiian organizations; and for-profit and non-profit entities.
Broadband infrastructure projects may qualify for either NTIA or RUS funding under complex rules. NTIA and RUS have adopted separate application review processes. NTIA will conduct an initial review of all BTOP Applications, to ensure compliance with BTOP's mandatory eligibility requirements. During the second step of the BTOP application process, States will be asked to recommend and prioritize certain projects designated by NTIA, based on broadband mapping and planning data and specific State needs.
The agencies intend to release two or more subsequent NOFAs before the September 10, 2010 deadline for disbursement of all funding awards. All funded projects must be substantially complete within two years of the date of issuance of the funding award.