Expert Opinion: Technology Policy Institute Study Misunderstands Purpose of Broadband Program

Education, Expert Opinion, Health, NTIA, Rural Utilities Service November 18th, 2013

, Executive Director, SHLB Coalition

Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition Finds Fault  with Study Critiquing Broadband Technology Opportunities Program

WASHINGTON, November 18, 2013 – The Technology Policy Institute issued a report on Thursday criticizing the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP).  Unfortunately, the report reflects a misunderstanding of the purpose of that program.

The Technology Policy Institute study of BTOP mischaracterizes the purposes of the Program and fails to recognize the program’s enormous benefit to community anchor institutions across the country.  The authors of the study describe the BTOP program as a “rural subsidy” program.  In fact, the BTOP program is neither “rural” nor a “subsidy.”

While the Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP) administered by the Rural Utility Service (RUS) was focused on connecting rural residential consumers to “last mile” broadband, the principal purpose of the BTOP infrastructure program was to provide high-capacity “Middle Mile” broadband services to schools, libraries, health providers, community colleges, and other anchor institutions all across the country, not just in rural areas.  The BTOP program also provided valuable support for public computer centers and promoted broadband adoption in urban, suburban and rural areas.  Unlike an ongoing subsidy, BTOP provided a one-time investment in long-lasting broadband infrastructure that expands the reach of broadband services across many underserved geographic areas that previously suffered from an inadequate level of broadband capacity.  The National Broadband Plan called for anchor institutions to have 1 Gbps capacity by 2020, and the BTOP program has played an important role in moving us toward that goal.

The SHLB Coalition is a broad-based coalition of non-profit and for-profit organizations that promote open, affordable, high-capacity broadband for anchor institutions and their communities.  Enhancing the broadband capabilities of community anchor institutions promotes economic growth and enables the most vulnerable segments of our population to be equal participants in the 21st century society and economy.

John Windhausen is Executive Director of the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition (pronounced “SHELL-bee Coalition”).

 

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