States win big in second round of broadband stimulus funds

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke recently announced the latest round of economic stimulus awards totaling $357 million for expanded high-speed Internet access.

Nine states - California, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Wisconsin - received funding from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. The agency is tasked with distributing $7.2 billion in Recovery Act funds over the next year.

West Virginia was a big winner - the state received $130 million in funding to expand broadband to 471 schools, 176 libraries, and 184 hospitals. "This funding is about universal access to the Internet, so that no West Virginian is ever left behind," said Senator Jay Rockefeller, calling the award "a game-changer."

Eight rural Minnesota counties will get access to broadband for the first time from $12.7 million in funds allocated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. City-owned Windom Communications can now expand service to five cities that previously only had access to the slowest type of Internet, a dial-up connection.

The North Florida Economic Development Partnership was also a major recipient, receiving $30 million to help fund broadband Internet services in the Florida Panhandle. Partnership Executive Director Jeff Hendry said of the grant, "I can think of no more important investment for this region than broadband and high-speed connectivity infrastructure."

Pennsylvania received the go-ahead to build a 1,700-mile fiber network, PennREN, which will bring broadband access to 60 educational institutions in 39 counties across South and Central Pennsylvania. The project will receive $99.6 million in federal Recovery Act funds.

The stimulus funds were announced in advance of the FCC's report to Congress on the National Broadband Plan, set for mid-March. The plan is expected to outline an aggressive push for universal broadband access.

The deadline to submit a proposal for the second round of broadband stimulus funds is March 15.

State gets $130 million to expand broadband (Charleston Gazette)

Windom area gets $12.7M for broadband service (Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune)

Area wins broadband stimulus grant (Palatka Daily News)

NTIA awards 10 more broadband funding grants (Fierce Telecom)