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Mobile

Recovery Act: Bids Come In

Substantial bids for the first $4 billion of broadband stimulus money from the U.S. Recovery Act are starting to be unveiled by a variety of operators ahead of Thursday's final deadline for applications.

Leap Wireless International Inc. (Nasdaq: LEAP) and Level 3 Communications Inc. (NYSE: LVLT) are among the biggest-name operators that have so far revealed that they're interested in getting government money. Other smaller companies, such as KeyOn Communications Holdings Inc. and SkyTerra Communications (Nasdaq: SKYT), are also hoping to get grants or loans in this first round. (See SkyTerra Asks for $37M and KeyOn Applies for $150M in Stimulus.)

Last week, the government extended the final deadline for broadband applications to 5 p.m. on Aug. 20. In this first round of funding, there is about $2.4 billion available under the rural Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP) for deploying broadband in the boondocks. Meanwhile, up to $1.6 billion is available in the Broadband Technologies Initiative Program (BTOP), which is intended to promote new broadband technology in unserved and underserved communities.

All told, $7.6 billion will be paid out under the broadband element of the Recovery Act. Of this, up to $4.7 billion is due to be paid out under BTOP funding by the end of September 2010. The next rounds are expected to get underway in the Spring and Fall of next year.

Amongst the latest applicants, Leap, under its Cricket Communications Inc. subsidiary, is applying for $8.6 million in funds to provide high-speed wireless Internet access to 23,000 low-income families in Baltimore, Houston, Memphis, San Diego, and Washington, D.C. The operator is working with One Economy, a non-profit organization, on the deployment, which is known as Project Change Access.

Level 3, meanwhile, is applying for stimulus money to add infrastructure to its amplifier stations that provide broadband services to rural areas. The Boulder County Business Report briefly notes that the operator is looking for "less than $50 million" to build up amplifier stations in areas such as Manchester, Tenn., and Elmdale, Kan., to increase the broadband signal.

For its part, Omaha, Neb.-based KeyOn, has applied for $150 million under the BIP program to build out a 3.65 GHz WiMax network in rural areas. The operator holds a nationwide license to deploy communications in the 3.65 GHz band.

"With a network that currently spans 382 wireless broadband towers which has served mainly rural populations over the last seven years, we possess the experience and commitment to immediately commence construction of these next-generation wireless networks upon receipt of stimulus funds," Jonathan Snyder, president and CEO of KeyOn Communications says, in a statement.

SkyTerra, meanwhile, will request $37 million to fund the development and deployment of two dual-mode wireless devices for public safety use. The devices will be capable of communicating with both 700MHz public safety terrestrial networks and with SkyTerra’s satellites.

SkyTerra says it will provide an additional $9 million, for a total investment of $46 million.

If you need to get up to speed on the twists and turns of the Recovery Act, check out Unstrung and Light Reading's extensive coverage listed below:

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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