Diversity of Broadband Projects Should Trump Fixed Division of Grant Funds, Say Commenters

WASHINGTON, April 10, 2009 – The federal government’s disbursal of funds for broadband grants should be fluid and flexible enough to fund the best projects, irrespective of category, according to submissions to the NTIA on Thursday, April 9.

Editor’s Note (4/19) – The complete BroadbandCensus.com List of NTIA Comments is now available at http://broadbandcensus.com/2009/04/the-broadbandcensuscom-list-of-ntia-comments

The BroadbandCensus.com List of NTIA Comments aims to include all substantive comments filed between March 10 and April 15 on the NTIA web site. For a growing number of comments, BroadbandCensus.com has provided a brief summary of the contents of the comment.

WASHINGTON, April 10, 2009 – The federal government’s disbursal of funds for broadband grants should be fluid and flexible enough to fund the best projects, irrespective of category, according to submissions to the NTIA on Thursday, April 9.

The volume of comment submissions to the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration continued to rise as Monday, April 13, the due date for comments, approaches.

Underscoring the stakes involved in this round of comments, the NTIA confirmed Thursday that there will not be a round for reply comments. “We are going to go right to the rules” after the comments deadline, said agency spokesman Mark Tolbert.

In its filing, Granite Broadband said that no hard and fast percentage of funds should be apportioned to each category, since each state will have different priorities. The track record and existing relationship between an applicant and the community they will serve should be part of the application weighting process. Projects that leverage existing public and private assets should be given priority, and projects should be viable and sustainable after stimulus funds disappear. NTIA should not contract with one group to create the national broadband map, said Granite Broadband. Rather, this should be done on a state level, either by NTIA or by a contractor. http://www.ntia.doc.gov/broadbandgrants/comment.cfm?e=DB05ECBF-BD87-4B8D-B4EF-0158857FABC7

In a Thursday comment, Wireless Communications Association International agreed with previous commenters’ suggestion that wireless networks should be built out in unserved and underserved areas.

WCAI said that “unlike fixed services, mobile wireless broadband provides mobility.” Mobile broadband has the potential to produce both good mobile and good broadband. NTIA should give “substantial consideration” to the states, but not delegate all power to them. Finally, mobile wireless and fixed wireless should also constitute separate product markets. http://www.ntia.doc.gov/broadbandgrants/comment.cfm?e=3584C5B5-9F89-4FA9-B0AD-241E72AAB810

The group also submitted its comments a second time in the Adobe PDF format, at http://www.ntia.doc.gov/broadbandgrants/comment.cfm?e=F25DE927-B543-4231-A6D3-3275B25360F4

The Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology (COAT) highlighted the problems that disabled Americans face. Broadband adoption among disabled populations is significantly below average The NTIA should take this into consideration when ranking projects, the group said. COAT “expects applicants for the funds to involve people with disabilities through collaborations and partnerships.” http://www.ntia.doc.gov/broadbandgrants/comment.cfm?e=BE20D0EA-8282-4CED-9216-9503B9D164D0

The Regional Fiber Consortium said that it will be counterproductive to divide the funds for different purposes. Funds should be awarded on a competitive basis. They also said: states should not create their own criteria, but follow those set by Congress; broadband mapping must be done below the census tract level. Mapping at the census tract level – which is only slightly less granular than the ZIP code level – would skew actual broadband availability. http://www.ntia.doc.gov/broadbandgrants/comment.cfm?e=BAB612A4-86BB-4093-AC14-1E614A3B3560

JAB Wireless defined an unserved area as one in which service of at least 3 Megabits per second (Mbps) download speeds are not available. An underserved area is an area where there are not two or more providers who can provide 3 Mbps downloads. Projects that can provide short turnaround, and those that provide a least cost solution should be prioritized in the scoring process, the group said. http://www.ntia.doc.gov/broadbandgrants/comment.cfm?e=D2BE5026-1979-44AE-9CAF-67D852637B77

Spacenet, a satellite provider, recommended that NTIA offer a coupon program, such as they did with DTV, in order to overcome startup costs with satellite broadband. Spacenet pointed out that satellite broadband service is already available in rural areas. http://www.ntia.doc.gov/broadbandgrants/comment.cfm?e=827CA38B-F86B-41C8-BFC4-1897AEA6E283

Juan Eugenio Rodríguez de Hostos, chief information officer of the territory of Puerto Rico, requested that NTIA take a holistic approach to the stimulus. When establishing priority for funds, NTIA should look to state’s broadband plans, to ensure the best solution. http://www.ntia.doc.gov/broadbandgrants/comment.cfm?e=DBA3CDEB-5953-4679-9F7C-1F5534B79285

The San Antonio Public Library wrote to emphasize the importance of libraries and the public computing centers they house. The definition of underserved should contain a library component, where rural areas without a public library within 10 miles, or an urban area where there is not a library within four miles are considered underserved. http://www.ntia.doc.gov/broadbandgrants/comment.cfm?e=710063DC-727B-4442-8C85-F6264E8878E9

The City of Beverly Hills, Calif., also requested that no hard percentage of grants should be apportioned to any category. Projects should meet multiple goals, when possible, and should be given to those with “a proven record of successful implementation projects on budget and on-time,” said the city. The national broadband map should be at the county level, at a minimum, and ideally at the municipal level. http://www.ntia.doc.gov/broadbandgrants/comment.cfm?e=DD07C1DB-1B83-4267-AD18-35E6D8FB4295

Broadband Breakfast Club

Don’t miss the opportunity to register for the April 14, 2009, Broadband Breakfast Club at the Old Ebbitt Grill. The theme of the April meeting will be, “Spending the Stimulus: Can States’ Front-line Experiences Expedite Broadband Deployment?” Register at http://broadbandbreakfast.eventbrite.com.

Confirmed speakers include Karen Jackson, Office of Telework Promotion and Broadband Assistance, Commonwealth of Virginia; Betty Ann Kane, Chairman, D.C. Public Service Commission; and Sue A. Suleski, Technology Investment Specialist and Program Manager for the Pennsylvania Broadband Initiative.

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