Originally posted on the RCAP news blog on Aug. 21, 2009
Under the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, RCAP has submitted an application for $36 million to provide technical assistance and training to small, rural, unserved and underserved communities in all aspects of sustainable broadband adoption development and deployment. RCAP also proposes to provide loans to eligible communities to finance pre-development costs such as feasibility studies and pre-construction expenses associated with funding awards.
The broadband program offers $4.7 billion in funding through the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service. The funds are part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 – economic stimulus funds. The broadband program is providing 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. The spending of these funds is also meant to help spur job creation and stimulate long-term economic growth and opportunity. In submitting its application for funding, RCAP has identified a crucial need in rural areas for universal broadband adoption and has proposed a well-conceived and -developed program that can efficiently and effectively meet that need. RCAP’s application states that the service model that will be used for this project comes from our existing nationwide, USDA-funded Technitrain technical assistance and training program for water and wastewater systems. The basis of these water and wastewater programs is ensuring that small rural systems are sustainable, and RCAP believes its more than 30 years of experience in assisting small, rural communities in these sectors would lend itself well to assisting them in laying foundations for the future in technology. RCAP’s application, which was submitted August 20, is the result of weeks of work on the part of so many RCAP staff, said Robert Stewart, RCAP Executive Director. He expressed his appreciation and congratulations on behalf of the entire network to the Midwest Assistance Program (MAP), the Midwest RCAP, including MAP staff Judy Black and Randy Finholt. MAP staff "not only had the original idea and advocated for this being a national RCAP initiative but also did most of the research, writing, and overall development of the proposal." Stewart also thanked RCAP’s board chair, Stan Keasling, for his leadership and encouragement and Aaron Fischbach, RCAP national office staff, for pulling it all together and adding the finishing touches and completing the application process. Stewart noted the efforts of each RCAP region in providing input and support for this proposed national program, which is titled "Broadband Aid." RCAP proposes the hiring of 46 staff to assist approximately 1,300 rural communities with broadband development and deployment. The request for funding is over a three-year period. The submission of RCAP’s proposal is the first of a two-step application process. RCAP’s application must first undergo an initial screening to determine whether it meets eligibility factors. The most highly qualified proposals will advance for further consideration.