2011 Q4 BTOP Status Report Details Strong Progress Toward Meeting Goals
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) released its quarterly status report on the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) for Q4 2011, and the report shows strong gains in all funding recipients’ areas of focus. Since the 2010 Recovery Act, NTIA has invested around $4bn in 233 BTOP projects in every state, territory and the District of Columbia, including: 123 infrastructure projects ($3.5b), 66 Public Computer Center projects ($201m), 44 Sustainable Broadband Adoption projects ($251m), and 56 State Broadband Initiative projects ($293m). The quarterly status report concluded that “BTOP grant recipients collectively exceeded all performance goals established for FY11. Based on these positive results, NTIA established strong targets for FY12, taking into account progress made through FY11 and expected grant recipient performance through September 2012.”
Included in BTOP recipients’ successful endeavors, “the Program has delivered significant progress in areas such as new fiber-optic infrastructure construction, the opening of new Public Computer Centers (PCCs), and thousands of new broadband subscribers now experiencing the benefits of high-speed Internet services.” Recipients have now deployed 45,196 miles of fiber, up from 8,220 at the beginning of 2011—NTIA reports that 90% of the 2012 goal of 50k miles of fiber has been achieved already. According to NTIA, Mother Nature played a starring role in this achievement: “BTOP recipients benefited from unseasonably mild winter weather, which accelerated construction efforts. In some instances, contractors deployed additional crews to speed up the placement of fiber and underground conduit or the installation of microwave links on towers.”
Projects to connect community anchor institutions have also experienced success: “Last quarter, BTOP recipients connected and/or improved service to more than 2,211 anchor institutions within their project areas, bringing the total number of institutions to 6,374 across 35 states.” NTIA reports that recipients have reached 64% of the 2012 goal to connect 10,000 anchor institutions. Projects to “improve broadband access for the general public and vulnerable populations, such as low-income individuals, the unemployed, senior citizens, children, minorities, tribal communities, and people with disabilities” by installing PCCs reached 84% of the 2012 goal of 35k public workstations. Additionally, projects to increase Internet usage through digital literacy and job training led to “259,446 households and 1,279 businesses to subscribe to broadband services,” and more than 50k new subscribers signed up for broadband in Q4.
NTIA provided some BTOP success stories from around the country, including:
- Northwest Open Access Network (NoaNet) in Washington installed 120 new miles of fiber towards its goal of 830 total miles. NoaNet will “bring broadband connectivity to schools and community institutions in rural areas currently hampered by slow Internet and data connections.”
- Com Net’s GigE PLUS Availability Coalition in Ohio deployed 140 miles of fiber towards its goal of 700 total miles. This project will ultimately “spur more affordable high-speed broadband access for approximately 737,000 households, 165,000 businesses, 2,900 institutions… [and] 300 public safety agencies.”
- ENMR Telephone Cooperative in Texas and New Mexico connected 23 anchor institutions out of its goal of 200. NTIA explains, “ENMR will provide new broadband fiber and connectivity service, delivering Internet at discounted rates to local rural schools, state agencies, and other anchor facilities. This new network will also expand distance learning opportunities for students at schools and libraries in rural areas,” with speeds up to 1 Gbps.
- The Nebraska Library Commission upgraded 126 PCCs at libraries across the state “to provide computer access, employment resources, and assistance with government services for communities with low broadband penetration and median incomes below the national average.” This project increased average speeds from 1.8 Mbps to 7.4 Mbps.
- The Georgia Partnership for TeleHealth (GPT) connected 64 additional health care sites “providing free access to video conferencing and telemedicine equipment for more than 300 medical facilities, including hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and public health departments.” This project includes outreach and awareness efforts like “free online education to rural Georgia physician office employees.”
The BTOP status report also includes information about grant expenditures, and NTIA reports that “BTOP recipients reached a significant milestone in late December 2011, surpassing $1b in total drawdowns…Federal outlays increased nearly 55 percent from the previous quarter, and matching funds contributed increased by more than 37 percent.” NTIA further explained administrative activities like recipient performance monitoring, site visits, and outreach efforts.
Overall, NTIA’s progress report appears to illustrate that the BTOP program is achieving its goals, although it does out provide details on how many new jobs have been created by the various programs. The report does however show that the funds are being used to improve broadband availability and adoption in rural, underserved, and vulnerable populations across the country. NTIA expects continued strong progress in 2012, and it looks like many of the 2012 goals will likely be met or exceeded.