Broadband Grant Criteria Reflect Public Interest Priorities

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Moira Vahey, Free Press, (202) 265-1490 x31

Broadband Grant Criteria Reflect Public Interest Priorities

Free Press Praises NTIA and RUS Guidelines

WASHINGTON - 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

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Free Press is a national, nonpartisan organization working to reform the media. Through education, organizing and advocacy, we promote diverse and independent media ownership, strong public media, and universal access to communications. Learn more at www.freepress.net

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