BREAKING: UTOPIA Scores $16.2M in Stimulus Funding

The Obama Administration announced today a new round of broadband stimulus funding that includes $16.2M for UTOPIA. That money can go a really long way towards deploying more of the network in UTOPIA’s footprint and can, at the average install cost, cover around 5400 additional homes. UTOPIA plans to hold an event at the state capitol tomorrow at 10AM to explain the details.

Source: (warning: PDF)

h/t: Stimulating Broadband

UTOPIA Applications for Broadband Stimulus Rejected in Round 1

The NTIA has started sending out rejection notices to broadband stimulus applicants and has been updating its online database with hundreds of applicants that did not get approved in the first round. Among those are all three of UTOPIA’s applications. Despite rejection in Round 1, UTOPIA can still apply for Round 2 which will be less restrictive on application requirements.

That said, it’s entirely possible (and in my estimation, highly probable) that UTOPIA won’t get funding at all. BTOP seems to be focused on new projects rather than existing ones and is focusing on the most rural areas. If that’s the case, the SAA will be the only way to finance any future construction and participants will have to bear a higher cost.

(h/t: Stimulating Broadband)

Yes, BTOP is Broken

Geoff Daily recently took BTOP out to the woodshed over its glacial pace, poor oversight, and severe underfunding. Today, I got some personal confirmation that BTOP is likely entirely broken and won’t accomplish much, at least not on this first round.

Way back on September 17, I sent the following e-mail:


I’m curious to know what state entity will be responsible for reviewing BTOP
applicants and applications, specifically in the state of Utah. Please

Just today, I get the following response:

Thank you for your interest in Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (BTOP). The BTOP application process encourages collaboration with the states in order to identify and fund the best possible broadband projects in America.  A representative from a state may contact an applicant to request additional information contained in the application because of the state’s interest in making a recommendation to NTIA. Promptly replying to a state’s request allows the representative to carefully consider applications before commenting to NTIA.  As a reminder, all Round 1 grant awardees will be determined by the end of the year.

Again, we appreciate your interest in the BTOP program to help bridge the technological divide and create jobs by expanding access to broadband throughout the nation.

Best Regards,

There’s a few very glaring problems with what just happened here.

  1. The response is a canned form letter with no relevance whatsoever to the question asked.
  2. The response came 5 weeks after the original e-mail was sent.
  3. There is no longer an opportunity to communicate with the relevant persons at the state level because the deadline for their review has now passed.

Is this really the best that the NTIA can do? If so, I doubt we’re going to see any kind of meaningful federal effort to improve telecommunications infrastructure in this country.

Qwest's Sneaky Stimulus Play

From reviewing the list of stimulus applicants, you’d think Qwest decided not to partake in the feeding frenzy. Think again. Instead of applying directly, Qwest chose to allow an intermediary to make the application, an intermediary that would then spend the money on Qwest infrastructure and services. I’m referring to the applications from the University of Utah.

You may think hey, what does the U plan to do with Qwest? The reality is that the application from the university was on behalf of UEN. UEN contracts with several companies to build and operate 10GbE and 1GbE links to educational facilities, but the lion’s share of the money goes to Qwest. Should the application get approval, it is nothing more than a hand-out to Qwest to build a network with taxpayer dollars and charge their normal exorbitant rates for service with no real strings attached.

I hope that whoever is reviewing NTIA applications at the state level sees right through this ruse.