News | NTIA-RUS Forum | Day 3, Session 3
March 20, 2009 – At the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and Rural Utilities Services' Wednesday joint public meeting in Flagstaff, Ariz., tension surfaced over how much of the money for local broadband projects should come from the federal government.
The panel topic - on the "selection criteria and weighting priorities" for evaluating broadband grants - was a repeat of an identical topic at Tuesday's meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada. The public meetings are part of six-day collection of sessions designed to solicit public input on how the Commerce Department's NTIA and the Agriculture Department's RUS should spend the $7.2 billion broadband stimulus.
Some on the third panel of Wednesday's public meeting called for a simple application process. Others called for rigorous qualification criteria for grant applications, including a well-documented business plan .
The broadband stimulus legislation, which allocated $4.7 billion to the NTIA and $2.5 billion to RUS for broadband grants, generally requires applications to match federal funds with 20 percent of project funds raised by the state government, local government, or private sector. NTIA has the ability to waive that provision, though.
Tension surfaced when Seifert put the implications of accountability, innovation, and wide distribution of funds under the spotlight. Many wanted the 20 percent match provision waived as a matter of course. Some called for acceptance of “in-kind” contributions - like state deeds to the rights of way for telecommunications wires - as constituting a match .
Seifert's pushing back in his questions may indicate that the agency is more inclined to stretch the public dollar by staying with a requirement for a cash match in most cases.
Echoing his call at the same panel in Las Vegas for carriers to put some “skin in the game,” Seifert addressed a credible proposal, and said that there would need to be a relationship between “assertions and proof.”
A better proposal would show that “people have thought this through”. He also characterized a need to create projects that support a “test-bed” model.
Seifert also pleaded for ideas that would allow NTIA to sort out a pending deluge of grant applications. He posed plausible scenarios and asked people to choose; would “this” get higher priority than “that”?
For the second time in two days, it was starkly clear that there is more of a need for broadband deployment than is available through the broadband stimulus funds.
Betty Buckley, director of the Communities Connect Network in Washington state, recalled a simple model for understanding the enormity of the “broadband problem.” She said access is required to obtain internet service, equipment, and content. She advocated demand side proliferation by increasing up-take by “statistically proven low adopters”.
Tuesday's panel in Las Vegas on the selection criteria was weighted with “middle mile” providers; the similar panel in Flagstaff was populated by providers of emergency services and tribal interests.
By and large, the presenters in Flagstaff read from their prepared texts. By and large, the presentations came off as a recitation of past accomplishments and putting the panelists’ positions “into the record”.
Lacking was the more free-flowing public debate evident on Tuesday in Las Vegas. The Flagstaff panel’s focus was more about mentioning a wide variety of praiseworthy causes.
Right-of-way and speed-to-market issues were both discussed. The vast majority of underserved people live in sparsely populated areas. Panelists and public comments addressed how relatively simple and urgent requirements are constrained by environmental impact studies and approval by a host of U.S. federal, state, and tribal agencies.
- Strategies for Interconnecting Middle-Mile and Last-Mile Fiber Critical Amid COVID19 Pandemic
- Breakfast Media Minute: September 25, 2020
- SiFi Network’s FiberCity Now Live in Fullerton, Ajit Pai Addresses Telehealth, Georgia Uses Ookla Speed Data
- State and Regional Broadband Initiatives Are Critical to Expanding Internet Access
- For Broadband and Future of Work, Coronavirus Pandemic is a Reset and Not a Pause
Signup for Broadband Breakfast
Fiber4 months ago
Fiber Networks Hold a Cybersecurity Advantage Over Rival Co-Axial and Wireless Technologies, Say Panelists
Congress4 months ago
Senators Introduce Healthcare Broadband Bill as House Companion, Proposes $2 Billion Telehealth Expansion
Artificial Intelligence3 months ago
Brookings Panelists Emphasize Importance of Addressing Biases in Artificial Intelligence Technology
China5 months ago
China Expert Predicts that Nation’s Flawed Coronavirus Response Will Damage the Power of Chinese Communist Party
Infrastructure6 months ago
Broadband Breakfast Live Online Will Stream Every Wednesday at 12 Noon ET on ‘Broadband and the Coronavirus’
Education6 months ago
Online Elementary Education is No Spring Break for Parents Teaching from Home
Artificial Intelligence3 months ago
U.S. State Department Employing Artificial Intelligence Against COVID-19 Misinformation
Rural5 months ago
Why the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund is So Significant, and How to Succeed in Applying For RDOF