Kagen urges local businesses, municipalities to apply for federal grants for broadband access
By Sarah Juon
It’s common knowledge that access to broadband Internet is limited in the Northwoods. Now, a U.S. House Representative in northeast Wisconsin is delivering an urgent message that local businesses, municipalities and county governments in northern Wisconsin have the opportunity to apply for federal grant dollars earmarked especially for rural communities lacking in broadband.
The U.S. Department of Commerce announced yesterday the availability of $4 billion in Recovery Act grants nationwide to help bring broadband service to unserved and underserved communities. This is the first round of Recovery Act funding aimed at expanding broadband access to help bridge the technological divide and to create jobs by building out Internet infrastructure.
The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), and the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) jointly issued a Notice of Funds Availability (NOFA) and solicitation of applications describing the availability of funds and application requirements for NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program and the RUS Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP).
The window of opportunity for Wisconsin companies and municipalities to apply for funding is between July 14 and Aug. 14 of 2009. Grants will be given out on a first-come, first-serve basis.
“We want everyone in the state to take advantage of this grant opportunity to bring broadband to rural communites,” said 8th District Rep. Steve Kagen, in a phone interview. “Both [U.S. 7th District House Rep.] Dave Obey and myself are working hard to bring jobs back to northern Wisconsin, and we both realize that if you’re not connected to broadband Internet, you can’t do business. Small businesses especially across the state rely on high-speed access to conduct business.”
Small businesses, people conducting a business out of their homes, city and county agents “all need to get in contact with myself or with Dave Obey to find out what they need to do – to get the necessary papers – to apply for this grant money. We want everyone in rural northern Wisconsin to be pro-active.”
Kagen added, “This is so important. In fact, I’d like to get the award for having the most networked part of the state. We have to chase these dollars back home.”
Kagen urged anyone affected by lack of high-speed Internet to “put pressure on their local township and city to apply for these grants, to get a company to come in and put up a tower in the township or city that will provide wireless broadband throughout the area. Cities have done this kind of grant application legwork for their waterworks projects, but they’ve been lax in the broadband area.”
The money and the need is there, Kagen added. “Now it’s a question of chasing the paperwork. It takes time and it takes an interest – those are the main obstacles. But I can’t urge strongly enough that this $4 billion will be doled out on a first-come, first-serve basis, so people need to get moving.”
Kagen said his Appleton office has a grant specialist, Amanda Dietrich, who will help anyone to fill out a grant. Dietrich is reachable at 800-773-8579. “Dave Obey’s office has someone who can help with grant writing also,” he added.
The text of each NOFA grant, as well as a list of workshops and fact sheets providing summary information, can be found at broadbandusa.gov.