Broadband stimulus gets one-week extension. Is it enough?
Overloaded servers prevent application completion and some folks are starting to panic
The flood of applications for the first round of broadband stimulus funding has apparently ground the online application process to a halt, prompting the NTIA and RUS to announce a one-week extension for applications that are in process by the original deadline date, which is tomorrow (Aug. 14). This is happening even as some grant winners are announced.
Craig Settles, industry consultant with Successful.com, said the complaints about the slow response of government servers have been building for some time and this week, many applicants were starting to panic when it looked like their applications wouldn’t be completed on time.
“It’s been running slow all week,” Settles said in an interview. “People have been going to [the online application process] and having problems. There has also been an issue because everyone is super paranoid. It’s been clear from the beginning if there is a technical error, if you omit some data or it is not formatted correctly, your application will be rejected.”
As a result, Settles said, many of the applicants are actually submitting multiple applications to cover different parts of their broadband projects rather than putting all their eggs in one application basket and then seeing that application rejected on a technicality.
“The volume of applications is making things worse,” Settles said. He had advocated a 30-day extension back in mid-July when the volume of applicants became apparent, but that idea was rejected.
Those who applied early are in the best shape, Settles said. He’s concerned that a one-week extension may not be enough for those who waited.
“For those folks who got ahead of the curve, they are in great shape, but for others, it’s going to be an ordeal,” Settles said. “I have no idea how many servers they are able to add or what kind of capacity they have behind the scenes for this. People are frantic, they’re upset. What happens if, even with a one-week extension, some applications can’t be finished?”
The problem, Settles said, is that this kind of fast-paced process has not been attempted before, making it harder for the federal government to prepare technology resources. Previous grant programs were done over much longer periods of time. “They haven’t done this dance before,” he said. “Murphy’s Law of technology will always rear its head.”
This first tranche of applications for the Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP) and Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) is scheduled to be funded by December, followed by two more tranches.
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