Since this has been a busy week, it seemed like a good time to provide an update on the broadband stimulus implementation process. I’ll refer you back to this earlier video from NCTA President & CEO Kyle McSlarrow and our White Paper; we think a strong broadband infrastructure is a good thing and we think the use of grants to promote broadband is a good thing, but we also think the funds ought to be used efficiently and we think the process ought to be fair & transparent.
On Monday, James Assey, Executive Vice President of NCTA, participated in a Roundtable on Nondiscrimination and Interconnection Obligations.
As part of the stimulus package, funding was included to “establish a Broadband Technology Opportunities Program for awards to eligible entities to develop and expand broadband services to rural and underserved areas and improve access to broadband by public safety agencies.” NTIA and RUS, the agencies that are implementing BTOP, are holding a series of public meetings, and Monday’s event was part of this. In broad terms, “Nondiscrimination and Interconnection Obligations” refers to how networks interact with each other and exchange traffic.
That’s a whole lot of background to set-up the statement that Assey delivered, which can be accessed on our website, along with a summary.
On Tuesday, NCTA Associate General Counsel Steve Morris spoke on a panel at another public meeting. Andrew Feinberg at BroadbandCensus.com provided coverage:
The statutory guidelines provide a good start in determining standards, said Morris. Morris invoked President Obama’s call for a transparent process, and said it be governed by a merit-based system of seven objective measurements to be shared between NTIA and RUS.
Job creation and preservation should be first and foremost among the selection criteria, Morris said. Preference should also be given to those applicants that can complete build-out within the statutory time periods, and that are able to maintain projects afterwards.
Infrastructure should be built out first the “last mile,” Morris said. And programs that target schools, libraries, and other “public interest” institutions should be ranked ahead of those that don’t, he added. Further considerations could be cost per capita and relative expense compared to other forms of communication, he said.
On Wednesday, NCTA responded to a Request for Comments on the FCC Report On Rural Broadband Strategy; those comments can also be found on our website. Essentially, we called for complete interagency communication and coordination; transparency; a set of coherent and clearly defined goals; an update of the FCC’s universal service and pole attachment policies; and an initial focus on extending broadband facilities to unserved areas and underserved populations.
Also this week, Representatives Joe Barton [R, TX-6] and Cliff Stern [R, FL-6] sent a letter to NTIA, RUS and the FCC about the broadband stimulus funds. You should read the letter, but some of the key points are:
- Stimulus funds should go where broadband mapping has been completed
- Funding should go to the unserved over the underserved
- We should stimulate demand rather than supply
- These efforts should be technologically & competitively neutral
- We should fund economically efficient projects
Broadband Nation is our 20,000-square-foot interactive exhibit at The Cable Show. This exhibit will demonstrate the many ways in which broadband technology has changed the way Americans live, work and play. It’s a hands-on opportunity to experience a wide variety of innovative new technology products and services available both now and possibly in the future for the home, school, and office, as well as specialized applications for medical centers, schools, and retail and entertainment outlets, among others. Broadband Nation seeks to capture in tangible ways how broadband has, and will, alter the everyday life of Americans; the exhibit will provide a good rationale for the broadband stimulus funding.
Next week, there will also be a couple sessions at The Cable Show that will focus on this issue.
- Wednesday, April 01, from 3:00 – 4:15 p.m., the session “21st Century Communications Policy: The Role of the States” will feature a conversation with State Public Utility Commissioners examining (like it says in the title) the states’ role in this process.
- Friday, April 03, from 11:00 a.m. – 12:15 p.m., the session “If We Build It, Will They Log On: Barriers to Broadband Adoption and Use” will look at how to drive adoption of broadband applications within the medical, education, safety and environmental/energy sectors.