At the most recent Prosperity Partnership Regional ARRA Coordination meeting, we had a speaker from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to talk about their Broadband Technology Opportunities Program. This is the $4.7 billion that the stimulus package laid out to help beef up broadband adoption in our country, and likely the first down payment in a larger national broadband strategy.
Anyway, the speaker used one of my favorite grad school words – leveraging – when talking about how they’re going to judge applications for broadband stimulus dollars. As in, they’re actually going to see what other ARRA dollars are being used in the vicinity and how this project connects to those. He mentioned a couple of examples: some obvious, like relationship to Health IT investments, but some really interesting, like relationship to HUD investments in low income housing projects. This is sort of a no-brainer, since low-income people fit into that “unserved/underserved” criteria that they’re talking about for BTOP, but it’s something I’d never heard before and potentially a huge driver of the collaborative coordination process that we and other regions are leading.
Obvious caveat: the regs aren’t out yet for these dollars so we’ll see how much that actually makes it into the Notice of Funds Availability. But let’s see what we can do now on the chance that it is indeed true!