No let-up on ACA broadband bidding
Anticipating that the Federal Communications Commission will be hearing from thousands of squeaky wheels looking for broadband stimulus grease, the American Cable Association (ACA) said it is going to start squeaking early and, if past behavior is any indicator, often.
The ACA said it is planning to file comments not only with the FCC, which is coordinating national broadband policy, but also with the NTIA and the Rural Utilities Service (RUS), which will administer the programs and disburse the funds for the $7.2 billion broadband stimulus program contained in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
The ACA said it will make several recommendations, many of them echoes of previously stated positions:
- The agencies should apportion funds to both “unserved” and “underserved” areas, and not prioritize the allocation of funds to one of these defined areas over the other.
- In “underserved” areas, the NTIA and RUS should give priority to proposals that seek to invest in bringing “middle-mile” infrastructure to the area over proposals that seek to invest in “last-mile” infrastructure.
- In “unserved” areas, the NTIA and RUS should give equal priority to proposals that seek to invest in bringing “middle-mile” infrastructure and proposals that seek to invest in “last-mile” infrastructure.
Definitions are always an issue when federal funds are allocated, and in the context of broadband spending, the definitions of “underserved” and “unserved” are up for grabs. The ACA is suggesting that an unserved area is any Census Tract in which at least 50 percent of the households do not have access to reliable broadband of 1.5 Mbps downstream and 128 Kbps upstream transmission.
An underserved area, the ACA suggests, is any Census Tract in which at least 50 percent of the households do not have access to reliable broadband of 5 Mbps downstream and 500 Kbps upstream transmission.
The ACA has consistently communicated its concern that the Feds do not encourage the creation of new competitors, or prop up shaky start-ups. Consequently, the ACA is suggesting that the NTIA and RUS should rule that it is in the public interest for eligible applicants to include any entity that has provided reliable cable, phone or broadband service within the last two years in the United States or its territories.