NTIA, RUS: Only One More Round of Broadband Stimulus Funding

There will be only one more round of broadband stimulus funding, the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration and USDA's Rural Utilities Service (RUS) announced Tuesday after signaling to Congress that they were planning to go from the planned three rounds to two.

In addition, the agencies put out a request for public comment on how to improve that second round of bidding for approximately $3.2 billion in funds to spur broadband deployment and create jobs.

NTIA and RUS are still vetting the fist round of bidders for up to $4 billion and plan to announce the winners next month.

Among the questions they want input on are on whether they can "better balance the public's interest in transparency and openness with stakeholders' legitimate interest in maintaining the confidentiality of proprietary data."

The first round of bids drew complaints that the process was discouraging some bidders and unfairly disqualifying others. For example, the request for information includes whether the definition of "remote" is too restrictive.

The chairs of both the Senate Commerce Committee and House Communications Subcommittee in separate oversight hearings on the broadband stimulus program registered their displeasure with a definition for remote of 50 miles from an urban area, which excludes some mountainous portions of their respective states of West Virginia and Virginia.

They also want input on how to better target the remaining funds to boost jobs and broadband adoption.

The cable and telco industries have criticized the process, including incumbents' ability--or lack of it--to check out the claims by bidders of unserved and underserved.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association and US Telecom say that they have uncovered hundreds of bids for areas where they already provide broadband service.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.