Recently, two funding opportunities were announced by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Rural Utilities Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
First, the FCC announced that they have launched a competition to identify the best ways to increase broadband adoption among low-income Americans. Winners of their competition will receive funding for Lifeline pilot projects that test how best to increase adoption of high-speed Internet among low-income Americans, a group with strikingly low adoption levels. The competition will use $25 million in savings from major reforms earlier this year of the Lifeline program to launch pilot projects across the country to test best practices around issues of cost, digital literacy and relevancy. A Public Notice released on April 30, 2012 announces criteria for the competition and a deadline of July 2, 2012 for applications. Winners will begin their year-long projects in the fall of this year.
Just today, the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) of the USDA announced availability of funds for rural communities seeking to secure broadband. The grants will be offered through the RUS Community Connect Grant Program. Community Connect grants are made available to the most rural, unserved and economically challenged areas. The funds are used to build broadband infrastructure. Awardees are also required to establish community centers that offer free public access to broadband. Information on available funding and application requirements are published on page 26241 of the May 3, 2012 Federal Register. More information on Community Connect Grants, including the application guide, can be viewed from the USDA Rural Development website. Applications must be received by June 18, 2012.