The U.S. Commerce department's final American Recovery and Reinvestment Act awards for broadband networks were announced this week. Commerce secretary Gary Locke said that this latest round of grants totaled $206.8 million and that the department has awarded nearly $4 billion of Recovery Act funds for the expansion of broadband.
Combined with funding from the Department of Agriculture, grants totaling more than $7 billion aimed at expanding broadband, improving the country's sagging economy, and providing more jobs have been announced.
The Commerce department's Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) is administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). Most of the funds from the latest round of awards have been earmarked for so-called "middle mile" projects, which connect broad regional areas. All 50 U.S. states have received funding for broadband through the stimulus program.
The "anticipated benefits will be realized over the life of each project, which must be substantially complete within two years and fully completed within three years," according to an NTIA statement.
The awards administered by the NTIA have been tailored to connect high-speed networks to nearly 25,000 community schools, libraries, public safety agencies, healthcare facilities, and government offices.
From its launch in late 2009, the program has been ambitious. For instance nearly $40 million was awarded to ION Hold to build a fiber-optic network connecting 70 communities in New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont. Another project, for $33.5 million, supports building a 260-mile fiber-optic ring in the mountains of northern Georgia.
In all, the new middle-mile awards will serve areas with almost 40 million households and 4 million businesses.