The federal government has released more than half of the money earmarked in the stimulus package for broadband projects.

The administration headed into the Independence Day weekend with an announcement that $4 billion of the $7.2 billion that was allot-ted for these projects would be disbursed. All of the money will be divided between two agencies to help the administration achieve its two-pronged objective for broadband access.

At an announcement ceremony in Wattsburg, Pa., Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack emphasized that the funding “will carry out Presi-dent Obama’s goal to expand broadband to communities that lack access to it. The president is committed to bringing the educational and economic benefits of the Internet to all communities.”

More than half ($4.7 billion) of the total allotment for broadband projects will eventually go to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which will award grants through its Broadband Technology Opportunities Program for projects that will build out broadband infrastructure in unserved or underserved areas, to deliver broadband capabilities for public safety agencies, and to stimulate broadband demands through training and education. The remaining $2.5 billion will go to the Department of Agriculture to make loans through its Broadband Initiatives Program to companies building out broadband infrastructure in underserved rural areas where greater high-speed broadband service will facilitate economic development.

The $4 billion that was released in July will pay for the first of three rounds of projects to be overseen by the two agencies. Applications will be accepted for this first round until Aug. 14, 2009. The second round of funds will be released in the fall of 2009. The third and final round will be released in the spring of 2010. According to the terms of the stimulus package, all of the funds must be allocated by the end of September 2010.

The federal government has created a unified application process. Both programs will use the same application to make it easier for ap-plicants to apply for funding and to help integrate the review process for the two programs. The government has also set up a Web portal where applicants can find out more about the two programs and the application process.

To learn more, applicants should visit broadbandusa.sc.egov.usda.gov.