Overview Edit

Funded at $4.7 billion, the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP)[1] provides grants to support the deployment of broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas, to enhance broadband capacity at public computer centers, and to encourage sustainable adoption of broadband service. Through this support, BTOP will also advance the ARRA’s objectives to spur job creation and stimulate long-term economic growth and opportunity.

Allocation of funds Edit

The money was allocated to the Program as follows:

  • $4.35 billion was directed to a competitive broadband grant program, of which not less than $200 million shall be available for competitive grants for expanding public computer center capacity (including at community colleges and public libraries); not less than $250 million to encourage sustainable adoption of broadband service; and $10 million transferred to the Department of Commerce Office of Inspector General for audits and oversight;
  • $350 million was directed for funding the Broadband Data Improvement Act[1] and for the purpose of developing and maintaining a broadband inventory map, which shall be made accessible to the public no later than two years after enactment; and
  • Funds deemed necessary and appropriate by the Secretary of Commerce, in consultation with the FCC, may be transferred to the FCC for the purposes of developing a national broadband plan, which shall be completed one year after enactment.

Implementation requirements and guidelines Edit

Specific implementation requirements and guidelines for the new NTIA broadband grants are as follows:

  • Established a “national broadband service development and expansion program” with purposes to include providing access to broadband service to consumers residing in unserved and underserved areas; providing broadband education, awareness, training, access, equipment and support to various institutions; improving access to, and use of, broadband service by public safety agencies; and stimulating demand for broadband, economic growth, and job creation.
  • Directed NTIA to consult with each state to identify unserved and underserved areas (with respect to access to broadband service) as well as the appropriate allocation of grant funds within that state.
  • Directed NTIA, to the extent practical, to award not less than one grant in each state.
  • Did not define “unserved area,” “underserved area,” and “broadband.” The Conferees instructed NTIA to coordinate its understanding of these terms with the FCC, and in defining “broadband service” to take into consideration technical differences between wireless and wireline networks and to consider the actual speeds these networks are able to deliver to consumers under a variety of circumstances.
  • Directed NTIA, in coordination with the FCC, to publish “non-discrimination and network interconnection obligations” that shall be contractual conditions of awarded grants, and specifies that these obligations should adhere, at a minimum, to the FCC’s broadband principles to promote the openness and interconnected nature of the Internet.[2]
  • Directed NTIA, when considering applications for grants, to consider whether the project will provide the greatest broadband speed possible to the greatest population of users in the area. There are no specific speed thresholds that applicants must meet to be eligible for a grant. The Conferees acknowledged that while speed thresholds could have the unintended effect of thwarting broadband deployment in some areas, deploying next-generation speeds would likely result in greater job creation and job preservation. NTIA is instructed to “seek to fund, to the extent practicable, projects that provide the highest possible, next-generation broadband speeds to consumers.”
  • Defined entities eligible for grants as: a state or political division thereof; the District of Columbia; a territory or possession of the United States; an Indian tribe or native Hawaiian organization; a nonprofit foundation, corporation, institution or association; or any other entity, including a broadband service or infrastructure provider, that NTIA finds by rule to be in the public interest.
  • Required NTIA to consider whether a grant applicant is a socially and economically disadvantaged small business as defined under the Small Business Act.
  • Directed NTIA to ensure that all awards are made before the end of FY2010. Grantees will be required to substantially complete projects within two years after the grant is awarded.
  • Directed that the federal share of any project cannot exceed 80% unless the applicant petitions NTIA and demonstrates financial need.
  • Directed that grant applicants must demonstrate that the grant project would not have been implemented during the grant period without federal grant assistance.

References Edit

  1. Pub. L. No. 110-385.
  2. FCC 05-151, adopted August 5, 2005.

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