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Broadband Grant Criteria Reflect Public Interest Priorities
Free Press Praises NTIA and RUS Guidelines
WASHINGTON - July 1 - The National Telecommunications Information Administration, along with the Rural Utilities Service, today unveiled grant guidelines for the $7.2 billion allocated for broadband deployment in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama in February.
The criteria, or “Notice of Funds Availability,” create a detailed system for prioritizing grant applications and outline how the agencies will distribute $4.7 billion in broadband money for the NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program and $2.5 billion for RUS loans and grants. Under the rules announced today for the BTOP programs, applicants that provide wholesale access to their networks at reasonable rates will be given preference for funds. Preference will also be given to networks that offer affordable services and community partnerships, among other public service goals. All recipients will have to operate their networks in a manner consistent with the FCC's Internet Policy Statement as well as agree to “not favor any lawful Internet applications and content over others.”
In March, Free Press released a broadband stimulus grant scorecard that outlined criteria policymakers should use to score potential broadband deployment projects. Many of the factors identified by Free Press in March, such as Net Neutrality, broadband adoption, affordability, speed and job creation, are reflected in the criteria released today.
“Today, the Obama administration reaffirmed its commitment to Net Neutrality by ensuring that public funds will not be used to build closed and discriminatory networks,” said S. Derek Turner, research director for Free Press and author of the scorecard. “These broadband programs are first class examples of public policy serving the public interest. They will use public dollars to build out Internet access as a public service infrastructure.”
“To those large corporations that say public interest requirements are too restrictive, we say step aside and make way for the thousands of other companies, non-profits and municipalities that are eager to bring the transformative benefits of the open Internet to the millions of Americans left on the wrong side of the digital divide,” said Turner.
Along with the release of grant guidelines, leaders from the three federal agencies charged with collaborating and overseeing the national broadband plan were joined by Vice President Joe Biden in Erie, Pa., this morning to discuss funding. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and newly appointed FCC chair Julius Genachowski discussed broadband stimulus plans and the importance of providing high-speed Internet to rural America.
“These agencies have set the bar for our nation’s digital future,” said Turner. “The success of the national broadband plan hangs heavily on how these federal dollars are doled out and these guidelines will help ensure that funds are allocated in a fair and efficient manner consistent with the priorities set forth by Congress and the president."
The RUS and NTIA will begin accepting applications and reviewing them over the coming months. The first round of grant awards are expected to be issued in December.
Read Free Press' broadband stimulus grant scorecard: http://www.freepress.net/files/Scoring Criteria for BTOP Grants.pdf