Recovery Act: Hospitals Want a Slice

Now that the application period for the first round of funding for broadband stimulus projects from the Recovery Act is almost done, the sheer diversity of bids is becoming apparent, even if the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is still apparently wrestling with what "broadband" actually means.

In a public notice issued Thursday, the FCC is looking to refine the definition(s) of the term "broadband" that extend beyond its current (and simple) designation of at least 768 kbit/s downstream by 200 kbit/s upstream. The government body wants your comments on a refined definition. (See FCC: Help Us Define Broadband .) More bids unveiled
Seventy hospitals in California, Arizona, Nevada, and Hawaii, meanwhile, want stimulus money to update "proprietary" networks in their facilities with distributed antenna systems (DASs) that offer more connection possibilities.

The National Medical Wireless Broadband Alliance filed a Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) proposal for the "Critical Links Project" on Thursday. It didn't specify how much money the project will require.

DAS systems typically allow connectivity with multiple carrier networks as well as sometimes supporting WiFi connections. The Alliance says that the "middle mile" network project will enable wireless medical applications ranging from electronic health records and health information exchanges to telemedicine, wireless telemetry and billing systems, e-prescriptions, and wireless viewing of x-rays and MRIs.

Wireline operator TDS Telecom is confident that it qualifies for money under the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) portion of the funds, as it's submitted 13 separate bids for money to deploy further in remote areas.

The broadband funding availability guidelines define an unserved "remote" area as a community located at least 50 miles from a populated area of 20,000 or more. TDS says that it has applied for every one of its service areas that meet this definition.

Satellite operator WildBlue Communications said Friday that it wants $30 million to help subsidize satellite broadband connections for about 10,000 homes in Colorado and Wyoming and another 10,000 in Arizona that are out of reach of high-speed cable, fiber, and DSL lines. The company will back the application with $8 million of its own money to meet the 20 percent matching rule in the Recovery Act. (See Recovery Act: WildBlue Takes Its Shot.)

Officially, companies can no longer enter applications for this first round of funding. Applicants that filed by August 20, however, can submit documents by Monday (Aug. 24), electronically or via the mail.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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