The key words to know are Unserved and Underserved because that is where the money is earmarked to go. But you have to decide if you will apply for the RUS Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP) for broadband projects in rural areas or for the NTIA Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) for broadband projects in unserved and underserved areas of the United States.
Each program has separate criteria. On a soon to be released podcast with Occam Networks, we discussed much of this. (I'll post it as soon as it is released). How you have to be very specific in what you can do, will do, and how you will do it to satisfy the requirements:
- Are you "shovel ready"? These funds won't be granted until December; meanwhile the industry has been holding it's breath and not doing much. The economy really needs the bang that the first phase will bring. On the other hand, you are granted the money but don't actually get it until the paperwork is done.
- Are you creating jobs?
- Are you bridging that elusive Digital Divide? If so, how will you sustain the network after its built? The funds only go towards CAPEX - capital expenditures of the network elements - it does not go for installation, maintenance, labor, or operating expenses.
- How are you going to keep the sharks out? Already people are positioning to skim as much money off this funding as possible to line their pockets. For many companies, the accounting procedures required for federal money and the strings attached will be overwhelming. It will result in many getting federal room and board for a while. Hoepfully, it will also catch the sharks and put them next to former politicians on the federal golf course at Coleman.