Originally published: April 20, 2009
Last updated: April 20, 2009 - 8:35pm
More than 1,400 trade associations, municipalities, companies and individuals weighed in on the federal government's $7.2 billion broadband stimulus plan, offering their takes on the definitions of two terms -- "unserved" and "underserved" -- that could determine the program's success or failure. Just how the government construes those two seemingly innocuous words will determine how the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Rural Utilities Service — the two government agencies charged with administering the broadband stimulus program — will figure out how the funds are distributed. The Federal Communications Commission will consult with NTIA and RUS on the definitions. NTIA spokesman Mark Tolbert said the agency is working closely with the other agencies involved in the project. The definitions of unserved and underserved are expected to be finalized along with other details on how the funding plan will be distributed when the NTIA issues its Notice of Funding Availability within the next two to three months. The NoFA, as it is called, will set the criteria for applying for grants and loans through the program. Most commenters seem to agree on a definition for an unserved community: any area where no broadband service (defined by the FCC as 768 Kbps or higher) is available. But they differ widely on the meaning of "underserved."