Advice on broadband stimulus pours in
The Federal Communications Commission asked for recommendations for how to spend $7.2 billion to make broadband more available to more Americans, and the natural result is a flood, an avalanche, a storm, a tsunami of documents from the likes of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) and the American Cable Association (ACA), as well as other communications organizations, companies, consultants, experts and pundits.
The NCTA provided official testimony (including a 39-page document) that makes the top-line plea that the “$7.2 billion provided for under the Recovery Act should be used to complement, not compete with, the vibrant broadband marketplace that exists in most areas of the country.”
Cable and phone companies rarely agree on much, but both the NCTA and Verizon stressed that making broadband available is only half of the issue. The other half is adoption. Many Americans still do not have (or even want) computers, and among those that do, affordability of broadband will be an issue.
Verizon suggested three principles to guide the broadband stimulus program: Be open to a wide range of projects to help finish what has already been started; rely on state and local expertise in identifying unserved areas; and maintain transparency and accountability.
The Progress & Freedom Foundation (PFF) urged the Federal Communications Commission, and those responsible for distribution of the grants, to clearly define the terms "unserved,” "underserved" and "broadband" as presented in the Act. “This will avoid inconsistency and misallocation of funds, which will be critical to the program's success,” wrote Barbara Esbin and Kenneth Ferree, PFF senior fellow and president, respectively.
The comments echo those of the ACA, which published an overview of its official comments yesterday (story here).
PFF, which leans toward conservative free-market philosophy, advised funding existing providers “rather then supporting second or third entrants in a market.”
The notion dovetails nicely with what the ACA and the NCTA have been saying.
While others painted in broad strokes, the ACA noted its members are already in those unserved and underserved markets. “ACA's members – small, independent cable companies first to deploy broadband facilities in rural America – are the ideal candidates for receiving economic stimulus funding to spread broadband into those truly remote areas that have been economically challenging to serve,” ACA President and CEO Matthew Polka said in ACA testimony. “In addition, funding of middle-mile projects – also an ACA priority – would unquestionably improve broadband performance in underserved communities.”