[Federal Register Volume 66, Number 158 (Wednesday, August 15, 2001)]
[Pages 42836-42838]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 01-20560]



Rural Utilities Service

Local Dial-Up Internet Grants

AGENCY: Rural Utilities Service, USDA.

ACTION: Notice of funds availability.


SUMMARY: The Rural Utilities Service (RUS) announces a new grant 
program and the availability of grant funds under this program to 
finance the acquisition, construction and installation of equipment, 
facilities and systems to provide dial-up Internet access services in 
rural America. The President of the United States and the United States 
Congress have made $2 million in grant funds available, through a Pilot 
Program, to encourage eligible entities to provide Internet service to 
rural consumers where such service does not currently exist. This 
program will provide grant funds, on a competitive basis, to entities 
serving communities up to 20,000 inhabitants to ensure rural consumers 
enjoy the same quality and range of telecommunications services that 
are available in urban and suburban communities. Applications for grant 
funds will be accepted through November 13, 2001.

DATES: Applications for grants will be accepted as of the date of this 
notice through November 13, 2001. All applications must be delivered to 
RUS or bear postmark no later than November 13, 2001. Comments 
regarding the information collection requirements under the Paperwork 
Reduction Act must be received on or before October 15, 2001, to be 
assured of consideration.

ADDRESSES: Applications are to be submitted to the Rural Utilities 
Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW., 
Stop 1590, Room 40 South Building, Washington, DC 20250-1590. Comments 
regarding the information collection requirements may be sent to F. 
Lamont Heppe, Jr., Program Development and Regulatory Analysis, Rural 
Utilities Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1400

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Independence Ave., SW., Stop 1522, Room 4034 South Building, 
Washington, DC 20250-1522.

Administrator, Telecommunications Program, Rural Utilities Service, 
1400 Independence Avenue, SW., Stop 1590, Washington, DC 20250-1590, 
Telephone (202) 720-9554, Facsimile (202) 720-0810.


Information Collection and Recordkeeping Requirements

    In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 
chapter 35), RUS invites comments on this information collection for 
which RUS intends to request approval from the Office of Management and 
Budget (OMB). These requirements have been approved by emergency 
clearance under OMB Control Number 0572-0125.
    Comments on this notice must be received by October 15, 2001.
    Comments are invited on (a) whether the collection of information 
is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, 
including whether the information will have practical utility; (b) the 
accuracy of the agency's estimate of burden including the validity of 
the methodology and assumption used; (c) ways to enhance the quality, 
utility and clarity of the information to be collected; and (d) ways to 
minimize the burden of the collection of information on those who are 
to respond, including through the use of appropriate automated, 
electronic, mechanical, or other technological collection techniques or 
other forms of information technology.
    Comments may be sent to F. Lamont Heppe, Jr., Director, Program 
Development and Regulatory Analysis, Rural Utilities Service, U.S. 
Department of Agriculture, 1400 Independence Ave., SW., Stop 1522, Room 
4034 South Building, Washington, DC 20250-1522.
    Title: Local Dial-Up Internet Grant Program.
    Type of Request: New collection.
    Estimate of Burden: Public reporting burden for this collection of 
information is estimated to average 33.5 hours per response.
    Respondents: Public bodies, commercial companies, cooperatives, 
nonprofits, and limited dividend or mutual associations and must be 
incorporated or a limited liability company.
    Estimated Number of Respondents: 25.
    Estimated Number of Responses per Respondent: 20.
    Estimated Total Annual Burden on Respondents: 1,005 hours.
    Copies of this information collection can be obtained from Michele 
Brooks, Program Development and Regulatory Analysis, at (202) 690-1078.
    All responses to this information collection and recordkeeping 
notice will be summarized and included in the request for OMB approval. 
All comments will also become a matter of public record.

General Information

    For FY 2001, $2 million in grants will be made available for the 
construction and installation of facilities and for other costs as RUS 
deems necessary to provide dial-up Internet services in rural areas. 
This program is authorized by 7 U.S.C. 950aaa.


    Applications will be accepted as discussed previously in the DATES 
section of this notice. All interested parties are strongly encouraged 
to contact the Rural Utilities Service official listed in the FOR 
FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section of this notice to discuss its 
financial needs and eligibility, prior to sending an application to the 
address listed in the ADDRESSES section of this notice. Applications 
will be scored and processed on a competitive basis.

Use of Grant Funds

    Grant funds may be used to finance the acquisition, construction, 
and installation of equipment, facilities, and systems to provide dial-
up Internet service in rural areas. Grant funds may also be used to 
fund lease costs for transmission equipment, facilities, and systems 
for up to two years.

Size of Grants

    The maximum amount of a grant award to an applicant under this 
program is $400,000. The minimum amount to be considered is $10,000.

Definition of Internet

    As used in this notice, the term Internet means a world wide 
collection of interconnected computer networks and users that share a 
compatible means of interacting with one another for the purpose of 
exchanging electronic data.

Definition of Dial-Up Internet Services

    As used in this notice, the term dial-up Internet services means 
providing Internet access via local dial tone access with no toll or 
long distance charges.

Definition of Rural Area

    As used in this notice, rural area means any area of the United 
States not included within the boundaries of any incorporated or 
unincorporated city, village, or borough having a population in excess 
of 20,000 inhabitants.

Grant Terms

    For FY 2001, $2 million in grants will be made available to 
eligible applicants. Grants will be awarded to eligible applicants 
based on their score (starting with the highest scoring application) in 
comparison to other applications until the $2 million appropriation is 
utilized in its entirety. The grants will be awarded on a competitive 
basis, based on the scoring criteria outlined below.

Eligible Applicants

    Grants may be made to legally organized entities providing, or 
proposing to provide, dial-up Internet services in rural areas. 
Eligible entities may be public bodies, commercial companies including 
limited liability companies, cooperatives, nonprofits, and limited 
dividend or mutual associations.

Matching Funding

    No match funding is required.

RUS Findings

    Project Sustainability. An applicant shall provide RUS with 
satisfactory evidence to enable the Administrator to determine that the 
project utilizing grant funds will be sustainable for a minimum of five 
years. Factors used in making this determination include, but are not 
limited to:
    (1) Evidence of sufficient revenues from the system in excess of 
operating expenditures (including maintenance and replacement); and
    (2) Reasonable assurance of achieving market penetration 
projections upon which the grant is based.

Grant Application

    Application should be prepared in conformance with the provisions 
of this notice and applicable USDA regulations including 7 CFR parts 
3015, 3016, and 3019. Applicants must submit a completed Standard Form 
424, ``Application for Federal Assistance,'' a narrative grant 
proposal, and all required supporting information and documents. An 
application must include a project description that contains plant 
designs, a subscriber forecast, and the basis for that forecast. The 
narrative must also specifically and clearly address the scoring 
criteria set out below. Other items include:
    (1) Certified financial statements, if available;
    (2) 5 years of pro-forma financial information, evidencing the 
sustainability of the project;

[[Page 42838]]

    (3) An environmental report, satisfactory to RUS;
    (4) Depreciation rates, based on current industry standards, for 
the equipment being financed (acceptance of such rates will be subject 
to RUS approval);
    (5) A sketch or map showing existing and proposed service areas;
    (6) A description of the current level of service available;
    (7) Information on the owners and principal employees' relevant 
work experience that would ensure the success of the project; and
    (8) All other required forms for Federal assistance and compliance 
with other applicable Federal statutes.

Review of Grant Applications

    All applications for grants must be delivered to RUS at the address 
listed above or postmarked no later than November 13, 2001 to be 
considered eligible for FY 2001 grant funding. RUS will review each 
application for conformance with the provisions of this Notice. RUS may 
contact the applicant for additional information or clarification. 
Incomplete applications will not be considered. Applications conforming 
with this Notice will then be evaluated competitively by a panel of RUS 
employees selected by the Administrator and points awarded as described 
in the Scoring Criteria section below. The applications will be ranked 
and grants awarded in rank order until all grant funds are expended.

Scoring Criteria

    Grant awards will be made based on the following scoring criteria 
as determined by RUS:
    (1) The need for services and benefits derived from services (up to 
40 points). This criterion will be used by RUS to score applications 
based on the documentation in support of the need for services, 
benefits derived from the services proposed by the project, and local 
community involvement in planning, implementing, and financial 
assistance of the project. RUS will consider the extent of the 
applicant's documentation explaining the challenges facing the 
community; the applicant's proposed plan to address these challenges; 
how the grant can help; and why the applicant cannot complete the 
project without a grant.
    (2) The economic need of the applicant's service area as determined 
by per capita personal income by County, as determined by the Bureau of 
Economic Analysis, U.S. Department of Commerce, at www.bea.doc.gov/bea/regional/reis/ (up to 40 points). Applicants will be awarded points as 
outlined below for service provided in each county where the per capita 
personal income (PCI) is less than 70 percent of the national average 
per capita personal income (NAPCI):
    (i) PCI is 70 percent or greater of NAPCI; 0 points;
    (ii) PCI is less than 70 percent and greater than 60 percent of 
NAPCI; 10 points;
    (iii) PCI is less than 60 percent and greater than 50 percent of 
NAPCI; 20 points;
    (iv) PCI is less than 50 percent and greater than 40 percent of 
NAPCI; 30 points;
    (v) PCPI is less than 40 percent of NAPCPI; 40 points;
If an applicant proposes significant service in more than one county, 
an average score will be calculated based on each counties' individual 
    (3) Project services USDA designated EZ/ECs (Empowerment Zone and 
Enterprise Communities) (10 points) or USDA designated Champion 
Communities (5 points).

    Dated: August 9, 2001.
Blaine D. Stockton,
Acting Administrator, Rural Utilities Service.
[FR Doc. 01-20560 Filed 8-14-01; 8:45 am]