A portion of the funding that has been set aside by the US government to expand broadband access to unserved and underserved communities is being sought by Aircell.

The company has applied for a $65 million Broadband Technology Opportunities Programme (BTOP) grant through the Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

BTOP provides grants to support the deployment of broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas, to enhance broadband capacity at public computer centres, and to encourage sustainable adoption of broadband service.

It is one of two programmes established after Congress appropriated $7.2 billion this year to improve broadband access in the country to "increase jobs, spur investments in technology and infrastructure and provide long-term economic benefits".

The other programme, known as the Broadband Initiatives Programme (BIP), is run through the Department of Agriculture's Rural Utility Service (RUS)

In its application Aircell says it "seeks funding to improve public safety and consumer access to in-flight Internet service in the largely unserved US airspace via Aircell's ATG [air-to-ground] commercial broadband network".

Expanding Aircell's broadband system, it adds, "will allow in-flight Internet service to be more widely available for national security agencies and accelerate adoption by US airlines and millions of domestic passengers".

Asked if Aircell is confident it will meet the requirements for BTOP funding, an Aircell spokesman says: "In terms of whether we will meet the requirements of the NTIA's BTOP funding, we certainly believe that our application is in keeping with the goals of the programme but we will know for sure when we receive initial feedback later this month.

Aircell has secured eight customers for its Gogo broadband solution - Air Canada, AirTran Airways, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Northwest Airlines, United Airlines, US Airways and Virgin America.

At present AirTran and Virgin America offer Gogo fleet-wide. Delta is in the process of equipping its entire fleet with the system, while American is equipping a portion of its domestic fleet. An initial trial of Gogo by Air Canada is expected to commence this year.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news