Broadband grants awarded, partner-matching site launches

Last week the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) awarded funds for broadband mapping and data collection to help boost high-speed Internet access as mandated by the American Recover and Reinvestment Act. Ten states were awarded funds, bringing the total number of grants to 51 with an approximate value of $97 million. The NTIA and Rural Utilities Services also launched a website designed to bring companies and government together to apply and work on broadband projects.

Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator Lawrence Strickling said the State Broadband Data and Development Grant Program grants were in response to communities being left behind in the 21st Century broadband economy. Texas was this rounds biggest winner (awarded $3 million) with Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Mississippi, and Kentucky receiving grants of $2 million or more. Four other states received grants totaling between $1.8 and $1.9 million to help collect data and map areas of high and low broadband adoption.

“Broadband connections are a key to being competitive in today’s fast-paced economy,” Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell said in a statement earlier this week. “Pennsylvania already has made important strides. Our broadband mapping inventory, begun in 2004, was one of the first such enactments in the nation. This infusion of federal funds will reinforce our efforts to bridge the digital divide.”

In Connecticut, the Department of Public Utility Control (DPUC) is the lead agency for the state’s broadband initiatives. And they will be working with the Departments of Information Technology, Public Safety, Emergency Management and Homeland Security, Transportation and the state’s Geospatial Council collect the necessary information and data to develop and maintain a statewide broadband map.

And in New Mexico, Department of Information Technology Cabinet Secretary Marlin Mackey said the funds would help the state understand “what is available and where we
need to go over the next several years.”

Broadband Brokers
On a related note, NTIA and the USDA’s Rural Utilities Services have launched BroadbandMatch, which seeks to pair companies and non-profits with state and local governments to expand broadband access and adoption.

“In the first funding round, many applicants wanted to form partnerships but didn’t know how best to locate other organizations with similar aims and complementary resources,” said NTIA’s Strickling.

Anyone interested in applying for funding under NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) or RUS’s Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP) can simply create a profile, including key information about the contribution they can make to a broadband project, as well as search for other stakeholders whose skills and resources match their needs.

“It’s like a matchmaking service where interested parties can discover each other to pursue their mutual interests,” RUS Administrator Jonathan Adelstein said.

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