Editor’s note: This story has been corrected; see below.
NEW ORLEANS, September 30, 2009 – The number two official chief of staff at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration said Wednesday that there will be changes in the rules governing the broadband stimulus program, and that the government would begin seeking comments on changes in mid-October.
Speaking at the annual conference of the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors here, Tom Power, chief of staff at the Commerce Department’s NTIA, also said that there were many advantages of consolidating the final two rounds of the broadband stimulus program into a single, final application period.
“We are considering eliminating the third round, and going to a second round” for all applications, said Tom Power, speaking at the annual conference of the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors here. “We haven’t decided that yet,” he added.
“The advantage [of eliminating the final round] is that we might be able to give people a little more time after the NoFA [Notice of Funds Availability] comes out,” he said. “We would love to give more time for folks to prepare applications.”
Besides giving individual applicants more time to prepare their packages for submission to the NTIA and the Agriculture Department’s Rural Utilities Service, Power said that eliminating the third round would mean that “we can get the money out the door” sooner.
That, he said, “ties into one of the fundamental points [about the broadband stimulus program]: while this a broadband program, it is also a stimulus program.”
Discussing the current process whereby incumbent telecommunications operators are able to challenge broadband stimulus applicants’ proposals for submission on the grounds that broadband is already available in that area, Power said, “this has been mischaracterized in some areas as a veto by the incumbents.”
“It is not a veto,” he said. Such challenges by incumbents mean only that the NTIA and RUS will consider such information in making grant decisions. “At the end of the day, it is our determination” as to whether “the areas are in fact served.”
Also speaking on the panel at NATOA were David Honig, executive director of Minority Media and Telecommunications Council; Casey Lide, an attorney at the Baller Herbst Law Group; and moderator Gerry Lederer, an attorney at Miller & Van Eaton.
Honig defended the broadband stimulus program, even as he urged that Congress devote greater funds to it. “This is a very well-designed program, no matter what anyone else may say.”
At the same time, there will be many applications that are not funded because so many more applications were made than are funds available.
“To arm those of us who are public advocates, when we go back in 2010 to ask for [more stimulus funds], we will be able to say, ‘here is an applicant that should have gotten funded’,” but wasn’t, said Honig.
For further coverage of Power’s comments, check back on Monday for BroadbandCensus.com’s premium content, including the BroadbandCensus.com Weekly Report.
Editor’s Note: Although Power is the chief of staff at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the NTIA Organizational Chart lists Anna Gomez, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications, as the second-ranked official. We apologize for the error.
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