Commercial and governmental entities interested in $4 billion of federal stimulus money still have time to apply for the funding, but the window is closing quickly, according to a telecommunications law firm official.

Applications for the first of three rounds of funding through the Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP), administered by the Rural Utilities Service (RUS), and the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), are due at 5 p.m. on Aug. 14.

"It would be really a high hurdle [to meet the Aug. 14 deadline], unless you've got something that's been in the works," said Michael Lewis, engineering consultant for the law firm of Wiley Rein. "I think you're kind of right up against it now, because these applications are very, very detailed. If you have your ducks in a row and know what you want accomplished, maybe it can be done."

According to a presentation given last week by Wiley Rein and the Enterprise Wireless Alliance, $2.4 billion in broadband grants and loans will be distributed by RUS, while NTIA will fund $1.6 billion in projects under BTOP. After the initial applications are evaluated by the RUS and NTIA, projects qualifying for the second phase of consideration will require further information that must be submitted by Oct. 15. Awards are expected to be granted beginning on Nov. 7, with the grants and loans being available for use 30 days later.

The focus of the programs is to provide broadband access in areas of the country that are considered to be unserved or underserved. Stimulus money is being pursued to help fund some public-safety broadband projects, including a 700 MHz proposal recently submitted to the FCC by a wireless startup with blessing of the North Dakota governor.

Under the stimulus guidelines, entities applying for BIP and BTOP money must be able to demonstrate that the project will be substantially completed within two years and fully completed within three years of the funding being awarded.

Related Stories