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BTOP Goes Out With Bang For Buck, Says Strickling

With four days to spare, the National
Telecommunications & Information Administration Monday gave out the last of
its $4 billion or so in Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP)
stimulus bucks and the up-to-$350 million it had to fund broadband mapping.

By statute, all the money had to be given out by
Sept. 30.

The last of the BTOP money--$206.8
million--was divided among 14 investments for broadband adoption (6 awards over
four states), for computer centers (again, 6 awards over six states), and two
infrastructure awards to two states.

The program wound up funding 233 projects,
which NTIA said are mostly so-called "middle mile" projects to
establish or upgrade broadband service to some 24,000 anchor institutions
including schools, libraries and hospitals.

There was also money for training and upgrading
equipment. "This focus allows us to get the biggest bang for every grant
dollar by addressing communities' broadband problems while creating jobs and
facilitating sustainable economic growth," said NTIA Administrator
Lawrence Strickling.

The projects have to be fully complete in three
years, so now NTIA will move from handing out the bucks to monitoring how
they are spent and to what degree they achieve the twin goals of broadband
deployment/adoption and economic stimulus.

Cable operators are concerned that the money could
be used to overbuild existing broadband service in competition to incumbents.

California was the biggest beneficiary both in
terms of the number of grants (five) and the biggest grant. The state is
getting $154.6 million to fund an interoperable public safety network in Los
Angeles County.

NTIA announced a grant of $190 million for
broadband mapping. It wound up spending $293 million, and the final grant will
allow that mapping by all the states, territories and the District of Columbia,
to continue for another three years beyond the initial two-year period

According to the Recovery Act, which allocated the money for broadband
deployment and mapping, an online, interactive national broadband map must
be ready by Feb. 17, 2011.