The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), widely known as the stimulus bill, allocates $7.2 billion in grant and loan funding for broadband/wireless initiatives for rural unserved, and underserved geographies across the country. This funding is available to a wide variety of organizations to purchase and implement network infrastructure and services to improve broadband coverage.
In addition to the broadband initiative, the Smart Grid Investment Grant Program (SGIG) was recently announced with close to $4 billion available to utilities, rural electric cooperatives, distribution companies and system operators, for smart grid technologies, monitoring solutions and infrastructure, and viability analysis. Implementing communications infrastructure for intelligent energy initiatives is also a key part of this program.
When it comes to securing broadband stimulus funds, network providers are currently faced with some fairly uncertain circumstances. Challenged with navigating through the uncertain fund allocation process, operators continue to struggle with determining how to write a convincing and winning application and choosing the right solution, technology and vendor to best suit their specific needs.
The most fundamental technology decision related to implementing these communications networks is choice of physical network technology. Physical network infrastructure does not exist in many rural, unserved and underserved areas, so operators are faced with the dilemma of choosing the best technology to meet their specific needs. Because they are best able to deliver on the deployment speed, low cost and public interest criteria, wireless solutions are rapidly emerging as the most viable option for stimulus-related projects.