Broadband Initiatives Program and Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, 58940-58944 [E9-27359]

Download as PDF 58940 Federal Register / Vol. 74, No. 219 / Monday, November 16, 2009 / Notices hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, except holidays. To be sure someone is there to help you, please call (202) 690-2817 before coming. Other Information: Additional information about APHIS and its programs is available on the Internet at (http://www.aphis.usda.gov). FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dr. Shirley Wager-Page, Chief, Pest Permitting Branch, PPQ, APHIS, 4700 River Road Unit 133, Riverdale, MD 20737-1237; (301) 734-8453. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: mstockstill on DSKH9S0YB1PROD with NOTICES Background The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is proposing to issue permits for the release of an insect, Megamelus scutellaris, into the continental United States for use as a biological control agent to reduce the severity of water hyacinth infestations. Water hyacinth originated in lowland tropical South America and was first introduced into the United States in the late 1800s. Its erect, free-floating habit and attractive flowers made its use popular in ornamental ponds and garden pools which inevitably led to the spread of the plant by humans. The individual rosettes reproduce to form extensive floating mats which, in mature stands, extend a meter or more above the water’s surface. The invasiveness of water hyacinth results from its rapid growth, its ability to reinfest via seeds or plant fragments, and its lack of natural enemies. Infestations negatively affect water traffic, water quality, infrastructure for pumping and hydroelectric operations, water use, and biodiversity. The plant can also cause property damage during floods, water loss due to evapotranspiration, and an increase in mosquito populations. Existing water hyacinth management options include chemical control, draining, and harvesting. However, these management measures are ineffective, expensive, temporary, have non-target impacts, or disturb the life cycles of the currently released insects used for biological control of water hyacinth. Thus, a permit application has been submitted to APHIS for the purpose of releasing an insect, M. scutellaris, into the continental United States for use as a biological control agent to reduce the severity of water hyacinth infestations. APHIS’ review and analysis of the proposed action are documented in detail in an environmental assessment (EA) titled ‘‘Field Release of Megamelus scutellaris, Berg (Hemiptera: VerDate Nov<24>2008 18:00 Nov 13, 2009 Jkt 220001 Delphacidae), for Biological Control of Water Hyacinth Eichhornia crassipes Mart. (Solms) (Pontederiales: Pontederiaceae) in the Continental United States’’ (July 2009). We are making the EA available to the public for review and comment. We will consider all comments that we receive on or before the date listed under the heading DATES at the beginning of this notice. The EA may be viewed on the Regulations.gov Web site or in our reading room (see ADDRESSES above for instructions for accessing Regulations.gov and information on the location and hours of the reading room). You may request paper copies of the EA by calling or writing to the person listed under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT. Please refer to the title of the EA when requesting copies. The EA has been prepared in accordance with: (1) The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), (2) regulations of the Council on Environmental Quality for implementing the procedural provisions of NEPA (40 CFR parts 1500-1508), (3) USDA regulations implementing NEPA (7 CFR part 1b), and (4) APHIS’ NEPA Implementing Procedures (7 CFR part 372). Done in Washington, DC, this 9th day of November 2009. Kevin Shea, Acting Administrator, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. [FR Doc. E9–27393 Filed 11–13–09 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3410–34–S DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Rural Utilities Service RIN: 0572–ZA01 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Telecommunications and Information Administration Docket Number: 0907141137–91375–05 RIN: 0660–ZA28 Broadband Initiatives Program and Broadband Technology Opportunities Program AGENCIES: Rural Utilities Service (RUS), Department of Agriculture, and National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), Department of Commerce.s ACTION: Joint Request for Information. PO 00000 Frm 00004 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 SUMMARY: RUS and NTIA announce the release of a joint Request for Information (RFI) seeking public comment on certain issues relating to the implementation of the Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP) and the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). This is the second joint RFI that the agencies have issued since the enactment of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act), which established these broadband initiatives. The input the agencies expect to receive from this process is intended to inform the second round of funding. In particular, the agencies seek to gather information that will help them improve the broadband programs by enhancing the applicant experience and making targeted revisions to the first Notice of Funds Availability (NOFA), if necessary. DATES: Comments must be received by November 30, 2009 at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. ADDRESSES: Interested parties are encouraged to file comments electronically via e-mail to broadbandrfi@ntia.doc.gov. Paper comments should be sent to: Broadband Initiatives Program, Rural Utilities Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Stop 1599, Washington, DC 20250, and Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, HCHB Room 4887, 1401 Constitution Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20230. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For general inquiries regarding BIP, contact David J. Villano, Assistant Administrator, Telecommunications Program, Rural Utilities Service, email: bip@wdc.usda.gov, telephone: (202) 690–0525. For general inquiries regarding BTOP, contact Anthony Wilhelm, Deputy Associate Administrator, Infrastructure Division, Office of Telecommunications and Information Applications, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, email: btop@ntia.doc.gov, telephone: (202) 482–2048. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: On February 17, 2009, President Obama signed the Recovery Act into law.1 The Recovery Act establishes five statutory purposes: to preserve and create jobs and promote economic recovery; to assist those most impacted by the recession; to provide investments needed to increase economic efficiency 1 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Pub. L. No. 111-5, 123 Stat. 115 (2009). E:\FR\FM\16NON1.SGM 16NON1 mstockstill on DSKH9S0YB1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 74, No. 219 / Monday, November 16, 2009 / Notices by spurring technological advances in science and health; to invest in transportation, environmental protection, and other infrastructure that will provide long-term economic benefits; and to stabilize state and local government budgets.2 Consistent with these statutory purposes, the Recovery Act provides RUS and NTIA with $7.2 billion to expand access to broadband services in the United States. In so doing, it recognizes the growing importance of access to broadband services to economic development and to the quality of life of all Americans. Specifically, the Recovery Act expands RUS’s existing authority to make loans and provides new authority to make grants for the deployment and construction of broadband systems in rural America. The purpose of the expanded RUS broadband authority is to improve access to broadband in rural areas without service or that lack sufficient access to high-speed broadband service, and to facilitate economic development. In addition, the Recovery Act requires NTIA to establish BTOP, which makes available grants for deploying broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas in the United States, enhancing broadband capacity at public computer centers, and promoting sustainable broadband adoption. In facilitating the expansion of broadband communications services and infrastructure, both programs will advance the objectives of the Recovery Act by spurring job creation and stimulating long-term economic growth and opportunity. On March 9, 2009, RUS and NTIA jointly issued an initial RFI seeking public comment on issues relating to the implementation of these programs. More than 1,000 public comments were received in response to the RFI and these comments were used to develop the NOFA, which was published in the Federal Register on July 9, 2009. The NOFA allocated up to $4 billion in funding for BIP and BTOP projects, including Broadband Infrastructure projects, Public Computer Center projects, and Sustainable Broadband Adoption projects. It also set forth key definitions that are used in the programs, established basic eligibility requirements and evaluation criteria, and provided additional information for applicants on how to obtain funding. In response to the NOFA, RUS and NTIA received over 2,200 applications requesting nearly $28 billion in funding, with projects reaching across all 50 states, five territories, and the District of Columbia. Before initiating the second round of funding, RUS and NTIA are requesting additional public comment on certain aspects of BIP and BTOP. RUS and NTIA seek to improve the applicant experience and strengthen the program impact of BIP and BTOP in achieving Recovery Act objectives. Please note that topics discussed in this request for information will not apply to the initial funding round, but will apply only to the second round. Matters To Be Considered: Information is being sought on the topics discussed herein. Interested parties are invited to submit comments for the record on these topics. Comments must be received by November 30, 2009 at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. I. The Application and Review Process A. Streamlining the Applications. For the first round of funding, applicants were required to complete a broadband infrastructure application, public computer center application, or sustainable broadband adoption application, depending on the type of project being proposed. For each application, the NOFA required applicants to respond to a number of questions and submit certain data. Those applicants considered highly qualified after completion of step one of the review process were required to submit additional information during a step two ‘‘due diligence’’ phase to substantiate the representations provided in the application.3 Some stakeholders, especially applicants completing the broadband infrastructure application, stated during the first round application process that completing the initial application was overly burdensome based on the questions asked and the number of attachments required. RUS and NTIA tentatively conclude that the application process should be streamlined. In what ways should RUS and NTIA streamline the applications to reduce the burden on applicants, while still obtaining the requisite information to fulfill the statutory requirements set forth in the Recovery Act? Should the agencies modify the two-step review process, and if so, how? Should certain attachments be eliminated, and if so, which ones? Should the agencies re-examine the use of a single application for applicants applying to both BIP and BTOP to fund infrastructure projects? How should NTIA link broadband infrastructure, public computer center and sustainable adoption projects through the application process? 1. New Entities. What type of information should RUS and NTIA request from new businesses, particularly those that have been newly created for the purpose of applying for grants under the BIP and BTOP programs? For example, should the agencies eliminate the requirement to provide historical financial statements for recently-created entities? 2. Consortiums and Public-Private Partnerships. Similarly, how should the application be revised to reflect the participation of consortiums or public-private partnerships in the application process? Should certain critical information be requested from all members of such groups, in addition to the designated lead applicant, to sufficiently evaluate the application? If so, what type of information should RUS and NTIA request? 3. Specification of Service Areas. The broadband infrastructure application required applicants to submit data on a census block level in order to delineate the proposed funded service areas. Some applicants found this requirement burdensome. What level of data collection and documentation should be required of applicants to establish the boundaries of the proposed funded service areas? 4. Relationship between BIP and BTOP. The Recovery Act prohibits a project from receiving funding from NTIA in areas where RUS has funded a project.4 Section VI.C.1.a.i of the NOFA required that infrastructure applications consisting of proposed funded service areas which are at least 75 percent rural be submitted to and considered under BIP, with the option of additional consideration under BTOP.5 According to the NOFA, NTIA will not fund such an application unless RUS has declined to fund it.6 RUS and NTIA are presently reviewing joint applications consistent with the process set forth in the NOFA. Should these kinds of rural infrastructure applications continue to be required to be submitted to RUS or should the agencies permit rural applications to be submitted directly to NTIA, without having to be submitted to RUS as well, and if so, how should NTIA and RUS proceed in a manner that 4 Recovery Act, div. A, tit. I, 123 Stat. at 118-19. Fed. Reg. at 33113. 6 Id. at 33105. 5 74 2 Recovery Act § 3(a), 123 Stat. at 115-16. VerDate Nov<24>2008 16:41 Nov 13, 2009 Jkt 220001 3 74 PO 00000 Fed. Reg. at 33107. Frm 00005 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 58941 E:\FR\FM\16NON1.SGM 16NON1 58942 Federal Register / Vol. 74, No. 219 / Monday, November 16, 2009 / Notices rewards the leveraging of resources and the most efficient use of Federal funds? Are there situations where it is better to give a loan to an applicant as opposed to a grant? Are there applicants for which a loan would not be acceptable, and if so, how should the programs consider them? B. Transparency and Confidentiality. Consistent with the Administration’s policy and the Recovery Act’s objective to ensure greater transparency in government operations, RUS and NTIA are considering whether they should permit greater access, consistent with applicable Federal laws and regulations, to certain applicant information to other applicants, policymakers, and the public, including state and tribal governments. Should the public be given greater access to application data submitted to BIP and BTOP? Which data should be made publicly available and which data should be considered confidential or proprietary? For example, RUS and NTIA tentatively conclude that the application’s executive summary should be made publicly available for the second round of funding. C. Outreach and Support. For the initial round of funding, RUS and NTIA provided multiple means of applicant support and outreach, including hosting national workshops and minority outreach seminars, publicly releasing an application guidance manual, posting responses to Frequently Asked Questions on www.broadbandusa.gov, and establishing a Help Desk that fielded thousands of telephone and e-mail inquiries. What method of support and outreach was most effective? What should be done differently in the next round of funding to best assist applicants? mstockstill on DSKH9S0YB1PROD with NOTICES D. NTIA Expert Review Process. During the first round of funding, NTIA utilized panels of at least three independent reviewers to evaluate BTOP applications.7 A number of stakeholders have questioned whether this is the most effective approach to evaluating BTOP applications. To further the efficient and expeditious disbursement of BTOP funds, should NTIA continue to rely on unpaid experts as reviewers? Or, should we consider using solely Federal or contractor staff? 7 Id. at 33107. VerDate Nov<24>2008 II. Policy Issues Addressed in the NOFA A. Funding Priorities and Objectives. Section IV.B of the NOFA establishes the funding limits for the first round of BIP and BTOP funding.8 In particular, RUS set aside approximately $2.4 billion in funding, with up to $1.2 billion available for last mile projects, up to $800 million available for middle mile projects and up to $325 million available for a national reserve. NTIA allocated up to $1.2 billion for broadband infrastructure projects, up to $50 million for public computer center projects, up to $150 million for sustainable broadband adoption projects, and up to $200 million as a national reserve. Many parties have publicly made suggestions as to how the NOFA could be modified to ensure that the Recovery Act funds make the greatest impact possible. RUS and NTIA welcome suggestions for targeted funding proposals and seek comment on how they can better target their remaining funds to achieve the goals of the Recovery Act. Below we set forth some examples of types of projects we could specifically target. We seek comment on these proposals as well as any others. RUS and NTIA request commenters that are proposing a more targeted approach for round 2 projects to support their proposal with quantitative estimates of the projected benefits of adopting such an approach. For example, commenters should quantify the impact of their proposal based on such metrics as the number of community anchor institutions committing to service, the number of last mile providers committing to utilize middle mile projects, the number of end users reached by the proposal, the number of new jobs created, directly and indirectly, and the projected increase in broadband adoption rates, as well as any other metrics necessary to justify the adoption of their proposal and ensure that the benefits of the Recovery Act are being realized. Commenters should explain the basis and method of calculation for the quantifications they provide. 1. Middle Mile ‘‘Comprehensive Community’’ Projects. Should RUS and/or NTIA focus on or limit round 2 funding on projects that will deliver middle mile infrastructure facilities into a group of communities and connect key anchor institutions within those communities? Ensuring that anchor institutions, such as 8 Id. 16:41 Nov 13, 2009 Jkt 220001 PO 00000 at 33110. Frm 00006 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 community colleges, schools, libraries, health care facilities, and public safety organizations, have high-speed connectivity to the Internet can contribute to sustainable community growth and prosperity. Such projects also have the potential to stimulate the development of last mile services that would directly reach end users in unserved and underserved areas. Additionally, installing such middle mile facilities could have a transformative impact on community development by driving economic growth. Should we give priority to those middle mile projects in which there are commitments from last mile service providers to use the middle mile network to serve end users in the community? Should the agencies’ goal be to fund middle mile projects that provide new coverage of the greatest population and geography so that we can be assured that the benefits of broadband are reaching the greatest number of people? Should we target projects that create ‘‘comprehensive communities’’ by installing high capacity middle mile facilities between anchor institutions that bring essential health, medical, and educational services to citizens that they may not have today? Should certain institutions, such as educational facilities, be given greater weight to reflect their impact on economic development or a greater need or use for broadband services? If so, what specific information should RUS and NTIA request from these institutions? To the extent that RUS and NTIA do focus the remaining funds on ‘‘comprehensive community’’ projects, what attributes should the agencies be looking for in such projects? For example, are they most sustainable to the extent that they are public-private partnerships through which the interests of the community are fully represented? Should we consider the number of existing community anchor institutions that intend to connect to the middle mile network as well as the number of unserved and underserved communities and vulnerable populations (i.e., elderly, low-income, minority) that it will cover? How should RUS and NTIA encourage appropriate levels of non-Federal (State, local, and private) matching funds to be contributed so that the potential impact of Federal funds is maximized? In addition, should we consider the extent of the geographic footprint as well as any overlap with existing service providers? E:\FR\FM\16NON1.SGM 16NON1 Federal Register / Vol. 74, No. 219 / Monday, November 16, 2009 / Notices mstockstill on DSKH9S0YB1PROD with NOTICES 2. Economic Development. Should RUS and/or NTIA allocate a portion of the remaining funds available under the BIP and BTOP programs to promote a regional economic development approach to broadband deployment? This option would focus the Federal broadband investment on communities that have worked together on a regional basis to develop an economic development plan. It would encompass a strategy for broadband deployment, and would link how various economic sectors benefit from broadband opportunities. Such a regional approach would seek to ensure that communities have the ‘‘buy-in,’’ and the capacity, and the long-term vision to maximize the benefits of broadband deployment. Using this option, NTIA and RUS could target funding toward both the short term stimulus of project construction and the region’s longer term development of sustainable growth and quality jobs. For instance, rather than look at broadband investments in both rural and urban communities as stand-alone actions, should RUS and NTIA seek applications for projects that would systematically link broadband deployment to a variety of complementary economic actions, such as workforce training or entrepreneurial development, through targeted regional economic development strategic plans? Should funds be targeted toward areas, either urban or rural, with innovative economic strategies, or those suffering exceptional economic hardship? Should states or regions with high unemployment rates be specifically targeted for funding? allocation of funding resources best be accomplished under the statutory requirements of each program? Should libraries be targeted as sites for public computer access, and if so, how would BTOP funding interact with e-Rate funding provided through the Schools and Libraries program? 3. Targeted Populations. Should RUS and NTIA allocate a portion of the remaining funds to specific population groups? For example, should the agencies revise elements of the BIP and BTOP programs to ensure that tribal entities, or entities proposing to serve tribal lands, have sufficient resources to provide these historically unserved and underserved areas with access to broadband service? Similarly, should public housing authorities be specifically targeted for funding as entities serving low-income populations that have traditionally been unserved or underserved by broadband service? How can funds for Public Computer Centers and Sustainable Broadband Adoption projects be targeted to increase broadband access and use among vulnerable populations? Should NTIA shift more BTOP funds into public computer centers than is required by the Recovery Act? In what ways would this type of targeted B. Program Definitions. Section III of the NOFA describes several key definitions applicable to BIP and BTOP, such as ‘‘unserved area,’’ ‘‘underserved area,’’ and ‘‘broadband.’’9 These definitions were among the most commented upon aspects of the NOFA. For example, a number of applicants have suggested that the definitions of unserved and underserved are unclear and overly restrictive; that they kept many worthy projects, particularly those in urban areas, from being eligible for support; that there was insufficient time to conduct the surveys or market analyses needed to determine the status of a particular census block area; and that they discouraged applicants from leveraging private investment for infrastructure projects. In what ways should these definitions be revised? Should they be modified to include a specific factor relating to the VerDate Nov<24>2008 16:41 Nov 13, 2009 Jkt 220001 4. Other Changes. To the extent that we do target the funds to a particular type of project or funding proposal, how if at all, should we modify our evaluation criteria? How should we modify the application to accommodate these types of targeted funding proposals? For example, should any steps be undertaken to adjust applications for satellite systems that provide nationwide service, but are primarily intended to provide access in remote areas and other places not served by landline or wireless systems? Are there any other mechanisms the agencies should be exploring to ensure remaining funds have the broadest benefit? How might the agencies best leverage existing broadband infrastructure to reach currently unserved and underserved areas? Are there practical means to ensure that subsidies are appropriately tailored to each business case? For example, should the agencies examine applicant cost and revenue estimates, and adjust the required match accordingly? Could elements of an auction-like approach be developed for a particular class of applications or region? If so, how would the agencies implement such an approach in a manner that is practical within program constraints and timeliness? affordability of broadband service or the socioeconomic makeup of a given defined service area, and, if so, how should such factors be measured? Should the agencies adopt more objective and readily verifiable measures, and if so, what would they be? How should satellite-based proposals be evaluated against these criteria? With respect to the definition of broadband, some stakeholders criticized the speed thresholds that were adopted and some argued that they were inadequate to support many advanced broadband applications, especially the needs of large institutional users. Should the definition of broadband include a higher speed and should the speeds relate to the types of projects? Should the agencies incorporate actual speeds into the definition of broadband and forego using advertised speeds? If so, how should actual speeds be reliably and consistently measured? The NOFA defines ‘‘remote area’’ as an unserved, rural area 50 miles from the limits of a non-rural area.10 The rural remote concept aims to address the prohibitive costs associated with broadband deployment in communities that are small in size and substantially distant from urban areas and their resources. The definition adopted in the NOFA was intended to ensure that the most isolated, highest-cost to serve, unserved communities could receive the benefit of up to 100 percent grant financing. The geographic factor upon which an area was determined to be eligible was its distance from a nonrural area; in this case, 50 miles. RUS heard from many interested parties, including members of Congress, on this definition. Many believed it was overly restrictive, thereby eliminating too many areas that were not 50 miles or more from a non-rural area but were nonetheless a fair distance away and unserved. Comment is requested on the definition of remote area, as well as whether this concept should be a factor in determining award decisions. Should factors other than distance be considered, such as income levels, geographic barriers, and population densities? C. Public Notice of Service Areas. Section VII.B of the NOFA allowed for existing broadband service providers to comment on the applicants’ assertions that their proposed funded service areas are unserved or underserved.11 Some stakeholders have suggested that this rule may reduce incentives for 10 Id. 9 Id. PO 00000 11 Id. at 33108. Frm 00007 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 58943 at 33109. at 33122. E:\FR\FM\16NON1.SGM 16NON1 58944 Federal Register / Vol. 74, No. 219 / Monday, November 16, 2009 / Notices applicants to participate in the BIP and BTOP programs because of the risk that their applications may be disqualified from funding on the basis of information submitted by existing broadband service providers that they have no means to substantiate or rebut. How should the public notice process be refined to address this concern? What alternative verification methods could be established that would be fair to the applicant and the entity questioning the applicant’s service area? Should the public notice process be superseded where data becomes available through the State Broadband Data and Development Grant Program that may be used to verify unserved and underserved areas? What type of information should be collected from the entity questioning the service area and what should be publicly disclosed? mstockstill on DSKH9S0YB1PROD with NOTICES D. Interconnection and Nondiscrimination Requirements. Section V.C.2.c of the NOFA establishes the nondiscrimination and interconnection requirements.12 These requirements generated a substantial amount of debate among applicants and other stakeholders. Although RUS and NTIA are not inclined to make significant changes to the interconnection and nondiscrimination requirements, are any minor adjustments to these requirements necessary? In particular, should they continue to be applied to all types of infrastructure projects regardless of the nature of the entity? Should the scope of the reasonable network management and managed services exceptions be modified, and if so, in what way? Is it necessary to clarify the term ‘‘interconnection’’ or the extent of the interconnection obligation? E. Sale of Project Assets. Section IX.C.2 of the NOFA generally prohibits the sale or lease of awardfunded broadband facilities, unless the sale or lease meets certain conditions.13 Specifically, the agencies may approve a sale or lease if it is for adequate consideration, the purchaser agrees to fulfill the terms and conditions relating to the project, and either the applicant includes the proposed sale or lease in its application as part of its original request for grant funds or the agencies waive this provision for any sale or lease occurring after the tenth year from the date the grant, loan, or loan/grant award is issued. Some stakeholders have suggested that this rule is overly restrictive and is a barrier to 12 Id. 13 Id. at 33110. at 33123. VerDate Nov<24>2008 participation in BIP and BTOP. Should this section be revised to adopt a more flexible approach toward awardee mergers, consistent with USDA and DOC regulations, while still ensuring that awardees are not receiving unjust enrichment from the sale of awardfunded assets for profit?14 F. Cost Effectiveness. How should NTIA and RUS assess the cost effectiveness or cost reasonableness of a particular project? For example, in the context of infrastructure projects, how should we consider whether the costs of deploying broadband facilities are excessive? In BTOP, one of the Project Benefits that NTIA considers is ‘‘cost effectiveness,’’ when scoring an application. This is measured based on the ratio of the total cost of the project to households passed. However, such costs will necessarily vary based on the particular circumstances of a proposed project. For example, extremely rural companies typically have much higher construction costs than more densely populated ones. Also, geographic areas that experience extreme weather or are characterized by difficult terrain will dictate higher per household costs. Similarly, the technology that is chosen to provide the service (e.g., fiber vs. wireless) would influence the costs. And finally, smaller companies as measured by subscriber count would necessarily have a higher cost per subscriber than larger companies. How should the agencies take these various factors into consideration when evaluating broadband infrastructure projects? What evidence should we require from applicants to ensure that unnecessary costs have not been added to the project? G. Other. What other substantive changes to the NOFA should RUS and NTIA consider that would encourage applicant participation, enhance the programs, and satisfy the goals of the Recovery Act? III. Status Interested parties are invited to submit written comments. Written comments that exceed five pages should include a one-page executive summary. Submissions containing ten (10) or more pages of text must include a table of contents and an executive summary. Interested parties are encouraged to file comments electronically via e-mail to broadbandrfi@ntia.doc.gov. Parties submitting documents containing ten 14 See, e.g., 15 C.F.R. §§ 14.32-37; 7 C.F.R. Part 3015. 16:41 Nov 13, 2009 Jkt 220001 PO 00000 Frm 00008 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 (10) or more pages are strongly encouraged to submit them electronically. Comments provided via e-mail may be submitted in one or more of the formats specified below. Comments must be received by November 30, 2009 at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Paper comments should be sent to: Broadband Initiatives Program, Rural Utilities Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Stop 1599, Washington, DC 20250, and Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, HCHB Room 4887, 1401 Constitution Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20230. Please note that all material sent via the U.S. Postal Service (including ‘‘Overnight’’ or ‘‘Express Mail’’) is subject to delivery delays of up to two weeks due to mail security procedures. All written comments received will be posted at http:// www.ntia.doc.gov/broadbandgrants/ commentsround2.cfm. Paper submissions should also include a CD or DVD in HTML, ASCII, or Word format (please specify version). CDs or DVDs should be labeled with the name and organizational affiliation of the filer, and the name of the word processing program used to create the document. Jonathan S. Adelstein, Administrator, Rural Utilities Service. Dated: November 9, 2009. Lawrence E. Strickling, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information. [FR Doc. E9–27359 Filed 11–13–09; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–60–S DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE Bureau of the Census [Docket Number 0910281384–91385–01] 2009 Company Organization Survey AGENCY: Bureau of the Census, Commerce. ACTION: Notice of determination. SUMMARY: The Bureau of the Census is conducting the 2009 Company Organization Survey. The survey’s data are needed, in part, to update the multilocation companies in the Business Register. The survey, which has been conducted annually since 1974, is designed to collect information on the number of employees, payroll, geographic location, current operational status, and kind of business for each establishment of companies with more E:\FR\FM\16NON1.SGM 16NON1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 74, Number 219 (Monday, November 16, 2009)]
[Notices]
[Pages 58940-58944]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E9-27359]


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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Rural Utilities Service

RIN: 0572-ZA01
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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Telecommunications and Information Administration

Docket Number: 0907141137-91375-05
RIN: 0660-ZA28


Broadband Initiatives Program and Broadband Technology 
Opportunities Program

AGENCIES: Rural Utilities Service (RUS), Department of Agriculture, and 
National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), 
Department of Commerce.s

ACTION: Joint Request for Information.

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SUMMARY: RUS and NTIA announce the release of a joint Request for 
Information (RFI) seeking public comment on certain issues relating to 
the implementation of the Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP) and the 
Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). This is the second 
joint RFI that the agencies have issued since the enactment of the 
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act), which 
established these broadband initiatives. The input the agencies expect 
to receive from this process is intended to inform the second round of 
funding. In particular, the agencies seek to gather information that 
will help them improve the broadband programs by enhancing the 
applicant experience and making targeted revisions to the first Notice 
of Funds Availability (NOFA), if necessary.

DATES: Comments must be received by November 30, 2009 at 5:00 p.m. 
Eastern Standard Time.

ADDRESSES: Interested parties are encouraged to file comments 
electronically via e-mail to broadbandrfi@ntia.doc.gov. Paper comments 
should be sent to: Broadband Initiatives Program, Rural Utilities 
Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, 
Stop 1599, Washington, DC 20250, and Broadband Technology Opportunities 
Program, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, 
U.S. Department of Commerce, HCHB Room 4887, 1401 Constitution Avenue, 
NW, Washington, DC 20230.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For general inquiries regarding BIP, 
contact David J. Villano, Assistant Administrator, Telecommunications 
Program, Rural Utilities Service, email: bip@wdc.usda.gov, telephone: 
(202) 690-0525. For general inquiries regarding BTOP, contact Anthony 
Wilhelm, Deputy Associate Administrator, Infrastructure Division, 
Office of Telecommunications and Information Applications, National 
Telecommunications and Information Administration, email: 
btop@ntia.doc.gov, telephone: (202) 482-2048.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: On February 17, 2009, President Obama signed 
the Recovery Act into law.\1\ The Recovery Act establishes five 
statutory purposes: to preserve and create jobs and promote economic 
recovery; to assist those most impacted by the recession; to provide 
investments needed to increase economic efficiency

[[Page 58941]]

by spurring technological advances in science and health; to invest in 
transportation, environmental protection, and other infrastructure that 
will provide long-term economic benefits; and to stabilize state and 
local government budgets.\2\
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    \1\ American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Pub. L. No. 
111-5, 123 Stat. 115 (2009).
    \2\ Recovery Act Sec.  3(a), 123 Stat. at 115-16.
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    Consistent with these statutory purposes, the Recovery Act provides 
RUS and NTIA with $7.2 billion to expand access to broadband services 
in the United States. In so doing, it recognizes the growing importance 
of access to broadband services to economic development and to the 
quality of life of all Americans. Specifically, the Recovery Act 
expands RUS's existing authority to make loans and provides new 
authority to make grants for the deployment and construction of 
broadband systems in rural America. The purpose of the expanded RUS 
broadband authority is to improve access to broadband in rural areas 
without service or that lack sufficient access to high-speed broadband 
service, and to facilitate economic development. In addition, the 
Recovery Act requires NTIA to establish BTOP, which makes available 
grants for deploying broadband infrastructure in unserved and 
underserved areas in the United States, enhancing broadband capacity at 
public computer centers, and promoting sustainable broadband adoption. 
In facilitating the expansion of broadband communications services and 
infrastructure, both programs will advance the objectives of the 
Recovery Act by spurring job creation and stimulating long-term 
economic growth and opportunity.
    On March 9, 2009, RUS and NTIA jointly issued an initial RFI 
seeking public comment on issues relating to the implementation of 
these programs. More than 1,000 public comments were received in 
response to the RFI and these comments were used to develop the NOFA, 
which was published in the Federal Register on July 9, 2009. The NOFA 
allocated up to $4 billion in funding for BIP and BTOP projects, 
including Broadband Infrastructure projects, Public Computer Center 
projects, and Sustainable Broadband Adoption projects. It also set 
forth key definitions that are used in the programs, established basic 
eligibility requirements and evaluation criteria, and provided 
additional information for applicants on how to obtain funding. In 
response to the NOFA, RUS and NTIA received over 2,200 applications 
requesting nearly $28 billion in funding, with projects reaching across 
all 50 states, five territories, and the District of Columbia.
    Before initiating the second round of funding, RUS and NTIA are 
requesting additional public comment on certain aspects of BIP and 
BTOP. RUS and NTIA seek to improve the applicant experience and 
strengthen the program impact of BIP and BTOP in achieving Recovery Act 
objectives. Please note that topics discussed in this request for 
information will not apply to the initial funding round, but will apply 
only to the second round.
    Matters To Be Considered: Information is being sought on the topics 
discussed herein. Interested parties are invited to submit comments for 
the record on these topics. Comments must be received by November 30, 
2009 at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

I. The Application and Review Process

A. Streamlining the Applications.

    For the first round of funding, applicants were required to 
complete a broadband infrastructure application, public computer center 
application, or sustainable broadband adoption application, depending 
on the type of project being proposed. For each application, the NOFA 
required applicants to respond to a number of questions and submit 
certain data. Those applicants considered highly qualified after 
completion of step one of the review process were required to submit 
additional information during a step two ``due diligence'' phase to 
substantiate the representations provided in the application.\3\ Some 
stakeholders, especially applicants completing the broadband 
infrastructure application, stated during the first round application 
process that completing the initial application was overly burdensome 
based on the questions asked and the number of attachments required. 
RUS and NTIA tentatively conclude that the application process should 
be streamlined. In what ways should RUS and NTIA streamline the 
applications to reduce the burden on applicants, while still obtaining 
the requisite information to fulfill the statutory requirements set 
forth in the Recovery Act? Should the agencies modify the two-step 
review process, and if so, how? Should certain attachments be 
eliminated, and if so, which ones? Should the agencies re-examine the 
use of a single application for applicants applying to both BIP and 
BTOP to fund infrastructure projects? How should NTIA link broadband 
infrastructure, public computer center and sustainable adoption 
projects through the application process?
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    \3\ 74 Fed. Reg. at 33107.
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1. New Entities.
    What type of information should RUS and NTIA request from new 
businesses, particularly those that have been newly created for the 
purpose of applying for grants under the BIP and BTOP programs? For 
example, should the agencies eliminate the requirement to provide 
historical financial statements for recently-created entities?
2. Consortiums and Public-Private Partnerships.
    Similarly, how should the application be revised to reflect the 
participation of consortiums or public-private partnerships in the 
application process? Should certain critical information be requested 
from all members of such groups, in addition to the designated lead 
applicant, to sufficiently evaluate the application? If so, what type 
of information should RUS and NTIA request?
3. Specification of Service Areas.
    The broadband infrastructure application required applicants to 
submit data on a census block level in order to delineate the proposed 
funded service areas. Some applicants found this requirement 
burdensome. What level of data collection and documentation should be 
required of applicants to establish the boundaries of the proposed 
funded service areas?
4. Relationship between BIP and BTOP.
    The Recovery Act prohibits a project from receiving funding from 
NTIA in areas where RUS has funded a project.\4\ Section VI.C.1.a.i of 
the NOFA required that infrastructure applications consisting of 
proposed funded service areas which are at least 75 percent rural be 
submitted to and considered under BIP, with the option of additional 
consideration under BTOP.\5\ According to the NOFA, NTIA will not fund 
such an application unless RUS has declined to fund it.\6\ RUS and NTIA 
are presently reviewing joint applications consistent with the process 
set forth in the NOFA. Should these kinds of rural infrastructure 
applications continue to be required to be submitted to RUS or should 
the agencies permit rural applications to be submitted directly to 
NTIA, without having to be submitted to RUS as well, and if so, how 
should NTIA and RUS proceed in a manner that

[[Page 58942]]

rewards the leveraging of resources and the most efficient use of 
Federal funds? Are there situations where it is better to give a loan 
to an applicant as opposed to a grant? Are there applicants for which a 
loan would not be acceptable, and if so, how should the programs 
consider them?
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    \4\ Recovery Act, div. A, tit. I, 123 Stat. at 118-19.
    \5\ 74 Fed. Reg. at 33113.
    \6\ Id. at 33105.
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B. Transparency and Confidentiality.

    Consistent with the Administration's policy and the Recovery Act's 
objective to ensure greater transparency in government operations, RUS 
and NTIA are considering whether they should permit greater access, 
consistent with applicable Federal laws and regulations, to certain 
applicant information to other applicants, policymakers, and the 
public, including state and tribal governments. Should the public be 
given greater access to application data submitted to BIP and BTOP? 
Which data should be made publicly available and which data should be 
considered confidential or proprietary? For example, RUS and NTIA 
tentatively conclude that the application's executive summary should be 
made publicly available for the second round of funding.

C. Outreach and Support.

    For the initial round of funding, RUS and NTIA provided multiple 
means of applicant support and outreach, including hosting national 
workshops and minority outreach seminars, publicly releasing an 
application guidance manual, posting responses to Frequently Asked 
Questions on www.broadbandusa.gov, and establishing a Help Desk that 
fielded thousands of telephone and e-mail inquiries. What method of 
support and outreach was most effective? What should be done 
differently in the next round of funding to best assist applicants?

D. NTIA Expert Review Process.

    During the first round of funding, NTIA utilized panels of at least 
three independent reviewers to evaluate BTOP applications.\7\ A number 
of stakeholders have questioned whether this is the most effective 
approach to evaluating BTOP applications. To further the efficient and 
expeditious disbursement of BTOP funds, should NTIA continue to rely on 
unpaid experts as reviewers? Or, should we consider using solely 
Federal or contractor staff?
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    \7\ Id. at 33107.
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II. Policy Issues Addressed in the NOFA

A. Funding Priorities and Objectives.

    Section IV.B of the NOFA establishes the funding limits for the 
first round of BIP and BTOP funding.\8\ In particular, RUS set aside 
approximately $2.4 billion in funding, with up to $1.2 billion 
available for last mile projects, up to $800 million available for 
middle mile projects and up to $325 million available for a national 
reserve. NTIA allocated up to $1.2 billion for broadband infrastructure 
projects, up to $50 million for public computer center projects, up to 
$150 million for sustainable broadband adoption projects, and up to 
$200 million as a national reserve. Many parties have publicly made 
suggestions as to how the NOFA could be modified to ensure that the 
Recovery Act funds make the greatest impact possible. RUS and NTIA 
welcome suggestions for targeted funding proposals and seek comment on 
how they can better target their remaining funds to achieve the goals 
of the Recovery Act. Below we set forth some examples of types of 
projects we could specifically target. We seek comment on these 
proposals as well as any others.
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    \8\ Id. at 33110.
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    RUS and NTIA request commenters that are proposing a more targeted 
approach for round 2 projects to support their proposal with 
quantitative estimates of the projected benefits of adopting such an 
approach. For example, commenters should quantify the impact of their 
proposal based on such metrics as the number of community anchor 
institutions committing to service, the number of last mile providers 
committing to utilize middle mile projects, the number of end users 
reached by the proposal, the number of new jobs created, directly and 
indirectly, and the projected increase in broadband adoption rates, as 
well as any other metrics necessary to justify the adoption of their 
proposal and ensure that the benefits of the Recovery Act are being 
realized. Commenters should explain the basis and method of calculation 
for the quantifications they provide.
1. Middle Mile ``Comprehensive Community'' Projects.
    Should RUS and/or NTIA focus on or limit round 2 funding on 
projects that will deliver middle mile infrastructure facilities into a 
group of communities and connect key anchor institutions within those 
communities? Ensuring that anchor institutions, such as community 
colleges, schools, libraries, health care facilities, and public safety 
organizations, have high-speed connectivity to the Internet can 
contribute to sustainable community growth and prosperity. Such 
projects also have the potential to stimulate the development of last 
mile services that would directly reach end users in unserved and 
underserved areas. Additionally, installing such middle mile facilities 
could have a transformative impact on community development by driving 
economic growth.
    Should we give priority to those middle mile projects in which 
there are commitments from last mile service providers to use the 
middle mile network to serve end users in the community? Should the 
agencies' goal be to fund middle mile projects that provide new 
coverage of the greatest population and geography so that we can be 
assured that the benefits of broadband are reaching the greatest number 
of people? Should we target projects that create ``comprehensive 
communities'' by installing high capacity middle mile facilities 
between anchor institutions that bring essential health, medical, and 
educational services to citizens that they may not have today? Should 
certain institutions, such as educational facilities, be given greater 
weight to reflect their impact on economic development or a greater 
need or use for broadband services? If so, what specific information 
should RUS and NTIA request from these institutions?
    To the extent that RUS and NTIA do focus the remaining funds on 
``comprehensive community'' projects, what attributes should the 
agencies be looking for in such projects? For example, are they most 
sustainable to the extent that they are public-private partnerships 
through which the interests of the community are fully represented? 
Should we consider the number of existing community anchor institutions 
that intend to connect to the middle mile network as well as the number 
of unserved and underserved communities and vulnerable populations 
(i.e., elderly, low-income, minority) that it will cover? How should 
RUS and NTIA encourage appropriate levels of non-Federal (State, local, 
and private) matching funds to be contributed so that the potential 
impact of Federal funds is maximized? In addition, should we consider 
the extent of the geographic footprint as well as any overlap with 
existing service providers?

[[Page 58943]]

2. Economic Development.
    Should RUS and/or NTIA allocate a portion of the remaining funds 
available under the BIP and BTOP programs to promote a regional 
economic development approach to broadband deployment? This option 
would focus the Federal broadband investment on communities that have 
worked together on a regional basis to develop an economic development 
plan. It would encompass a strategy for broadband deployment, and would 
link how various economic sectors benefit from broadband opportunities. 
Such a regional approach would seek to ensure that communities have the 
``buy-in,'' and the capacity, and the long-term vision to maximize the 
benefits of broadband deployment. Using this option, NTIA and RUS could 
target funding toward both the short term stimulus of project 
construction and the region's longer term development of sustainable 
growth and quality jobs. For instance, rather than look at broadband 
investments in both rural and urban communities as stand-alone actions, 
should RUS and NTIA seek applications for projects that would 
systematically link broadband deployment to a variety of complementary 
economic actions, such as workforce training or entrepreneurial 
development, through targeted regional economic development strategic 
plans? Should funds be targeted toward areas, either urban or rural, 
with innovative economic strategies, or those suffering exceptional 
economic hardship? Should states or regions with high unemployment 
rates be specifically targeted for funding?
3. Targeted Populations.
    Should RUS and NTIA allocate a portion of the remaining funds to 
specific population groups? For example, should the agencies revise 
elements of the BIP and BTOP programs to ensure that tribal entities, 
or entities proposing to serve tribal lands, have sufficient resources 
to provide these historically unserved and underserved areas with 
access to broadband service? Similarly, should public housing 
authorities be specifically targeted for funding as entities serving 
low-income populations that have traditionally been unserved or 
underserved by broadband service? How can funds for Public Computer 
Centers and Sustainable Broadband Adoption projects be targeted to 
increase broadband access and use among vulnerable populations? Should 
NTIA shift more BTOP funds into public computer centers than is 
required by the Recovery Act? In what ways would this type of targeted 
allocation of funding resources best be accomplished under the 
statutory requirements of each program? Should libraries be targeted as 
sites for public computer access, and if so, how would BTOP funding 
interact with e-Rate funding provided through the Schools and Libraries 
program?
4. Other Changes.
    To the extent that we do target the funds to a particular type of 
project or funding proposal, how if at all, should we modify our 
evaluation criteria? How should we modify the application to 
accommodate these types of targeted funding proposals? For example, 
should any steps be undertaken to adjust applications for satellite 
systems that provide nationwide service, but are primarily intended to 
provide access in remote areas and other places not served by landline 
or wireless systems? Are there any other mechanisms the agencies should 
be exploring to ensure remaining funds have the broadest benefit? How 
might the agencies best leverage existing broadband infrastructure to 
reach currently unserved and underserved areas? Are there practical 
means to ensure that subsidies are appropriately tailored to each 
business case? For example, should the agencies examine applicant cost 
and revenue estimates, and adjust the required match accordingly? Could 
elements of an auction-like approach be developed for a particular 
class of applications or region? If so, how would the agencies 
implement such an approach in a manner that is practical within program 
constraints and timeliness?

B. Program Definitions.

    Section III of the NOFA describes several key definitions 
applicable to BIP and BTOP, such as ``unserved area,'' ``underserved 
area,'' and ``broadband.''\9\ These definitions were among the most 
commented upon aspects of the NOFA.
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    \9\ Id. at 33108.
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    For example, a number of applicants have suggested that the 
definitions of unserved and underserved are unclear and overly 
restrictive; that they kept many worthy projects, particularly those in 
urban areas, from being eligible for support; that there was 
insufficient time to conduct the surveys or market analyses needed to 
determine the status of a particular census block area; and that they 
discouraged applicants from leveraging private investment for 
infrastructure projects. In what ways should these definitions be 
revised? Should they be modified to include a specific factor relating 
to the affordability of broadband service or the socioeconomic makeup 
of a given defined service area, and, if so, how should such factors be 
measured? Should the agencies adopt more objective and readily 
verifiable measures, and if so, what would they be? How should 
satellite-based proposals be evaluated against these criteria?
    With respect to the definition of broadband, some stakeholders 
criticized the speed thresholds that were adopted and some argued that 
they were inadequate to support many advanced broadband applications, 
especially the needs of large institutional users. Should the 
definition of broadband include a higher speed and should the speeds 
relate to the types of projects? Should the agencies incorporate actual 
speeds into the definition of broadband and forego using advertised 
speeds? If so, how should actual speeds be reliably and consistently 
measured?
    The NOFA defines ``remote area'' as an unserved, rural area 50 
miles from the limits of a non-rural area.\10\ The rural remote concept 
aims to address the prohibitive costs associated with broadband 
deployment in communities that are small in size and substantially 
distant from urban areas and their resources. The definition adopted in 
the NOFA was intended to ensure that the most isolated, highest-cost to 
serve, unserved communities could receive the benefit of up to 100 
percent grant financing. The geographic factor upon which an area was 
determined to be eligible was its distance from a non-rural area; in 
this case, 50 miles. RUS heard from many interested parties, including 
members of Congress, on this definition. Many believed it was overly 
restrictive, thereby eliminating too many areas that were not 50 miles 
or more from a non-rural area but were nonetheless a fair distance away 
and unserved. Comment is requested on the definition of remote area, as 
well as whether this concept should be a factor in determining award 
decisions. Should factors other than distance be considered, such as 
income levels, geographic barriers, and population densities?
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    \10\ Id. at 33109.
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C. Public Notice of Service Areas.

    Section VII.B of the NOFA allowed for existing broadband service 
providers to comment on the applicants' assertions that their proposed 
funded service areas are unserved or underserved.\11\ Some stakeholders 
have suggested that this rule may reduce incentives for

[[Page 58944]]

applicants to participate in the BIP and BTOP programs because of the 
risk that their applications may be disqualified from funding on the 
basis of information submitted by existing broadband service providers 
that they have no means to substantiate or rebut. How should the public 
notice process be refined to address this concern? What alternative 
verification methods could be established that would be fair to the 
applicant and the entity questioning the applicant's service area? 
Should the public notice process be superseded where data becomes 
available through the State Broadband Data and Development Grant 
Program that may be used to verify unserved and underserved areas? What 
type of information should be collected from the entity questioning the 
service area and what should be publicly disclosed?
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    \11\ Id. at 33122.
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D. Interconnection and Nondiscrimination Requirements.

    Section V.C.2.c of the NOFA establishes the nondiscrimination and 
interconnection requirements.\12\ These requirements generated a 
substantial amount of debate among applicants and other stakeholders. 
Although RUS and NTIA are not inclined to make significant changes to 
the interconnection and nondiscrimination requirements, are any minor 
adjustments to these requirements necessary? In particular, should they 
continue to be applied to all types of infrastructure projects 
regardless of the nature of the entity? Should the scope of the 
reasonable network management and managed services exceptions be 
modified, and if so, in what way? Is it necessary to clarify the term 
``interconnection'' or the extent of the interconnection obligation?
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    \12\ Id. at 33110.
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E. Sale of Project Assets.

    Section IX.C.2 of the NOFA generally prohibits the sale or lease of 
award-funded broadband facilities, unless the sale or lease meets 
certain conditions.\13\ Specifically, the agencies may approve a sale 
or lease if it is for adequate consideration, the purchaser agrees to 
fulfill the terms and conditions relating to the project, and either 
the applicant includes the proposed sale or lease in its application as 
part of its original request for grant funds or the agencies waive this 
provision for any sale or lease occurring after the tenth year from the 
date the grant, loan, or loan/grant award is issued. Some stakeholders 
have suggested that this rule is overly restrictive and is a barrier to 
participation in BIP and BTOP. Should this section be revised to adopt 
a more flexible approach toward awardee mergers, consistent with USDA 
and DOC regulations, while still ensuring that awardees are not 
receiving unjust enrichment from the sale of award-funded assets for 
profit?\14\
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    \13\ Id. at 33123.
    \14\ See, e.g., 15 C.F.R. Sec. Sec.  14.32-37; 7 C.F.R. Part 
3015.
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F. Cost Effectiveness.

    How should NTIA and RUS assess the cost effectiveness or cost 
reasonableness of a particular project? For example, in the context of 
infrastructure projects, how should we consider whether the costs of 
deploying broadband facilities are excessive? In BTOP, one of the 
Project Benefits that NTIA considers is ``cost effectiveness,'' when 
scoring an application. This is measured based on the ratio of the 
total cost of the project to households passed. However, such costs 
will necessarily vary based on the particular circumstances of a 
proposed project. For example, extremely rural companies typically have 
much higher construction costs than more densely populated ones. Also, 
geographic areas that experience extreme weather or are characterized 
by difficult terrain will dictate higher per household costs. 
Similarly, the technology that is chosen to provide the service (e.g., 
fiber vs. wireless) would influence the costs. And finally, smaller 
companies as measured by subscriber count would necessarily have a 
higher cost per subscriber than larger companies. How should the 
agencies take these various factors into consideration when evaluating 
broadband infrastructure projects? What evidence should we require from 
applicants to ensure that unnecessary costs have not been added to the 
project?

G. Other.

    What other substantive changes to the NOFA should RUS and NTIA 
consider that would encourage applicant participation, enhance the 
programs, and satisfy the goals of the Recovery Act?

III. Status

    Interested parties are invited to submit written comments. Written 
comments that exceed five pages should include a one-page executive 
summary. Submissions containing ten (10) or more pages of text must 
include a table of contents and an executive summary. Interested 
parties are encouraged to file comments electronically via e-mail to 
broadbandrfi@ntia.doc.gov. Parties submitting documents containing ten 
(10) or more pages are strongly encouraged to submit them 
electronically. Comments provided via e-mail may be submitted in one or 
more of the formats specified below. Comments must be received by 
November 30, 2009 at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.
    Paper comments should be sent to: Broadband Initiatives Program, 
Rural Utilities Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1400 
Independence Avenue, SW, Stop 1599, Washington, DC 20250, and Broadband 
Technology Opportunities Program, National Telecommunications and 
Information Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, HCHB Room 
4887, 1401 Constitution Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20230. Please note 
that all material sent via the U.S. Postal Service (including 
``Overnight'' or ``Express Mail'') is subject to delivery delays of up 
to two weeks due to mail security procedures. All written comments 
received will be posted at http://www.ntia.doc.gov/broadbandgrants/commentsround2.cfm. Paper submissions should also include a CD or DVD 
in HTML, ASCII, or Word format (please specify version). CDs or DVDs 
should be labeled with the name and organizational affiliation of the 
filer, and the name of the word processing program used to create the 
document.

Jonathan S. Adelstein,
Administrator, Rural Utilities Service.
    Dated: November 9, 2009.
Lawrence E. Strickling,
Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information.
[FR Doc. E9-27359 Filed 11-13-09; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-60-S