In a recent article, the Star Tribune asks if Minnesota cities are shut out by broadband rules. Of course, this applies to all cities, not just those located in Minnesota.
I'll soon put up an overdue piece with our reaction to the broadband stimulus rules - in particular, the decision of NTIA to ignore the public-interest requirement for private companies. In the meantime, this article has gotten some attention - thanks to Eldo Telecom for touching on it.
Many Minnesota cities are giving up hope due to rules that privilege private companies who already have the necessary data and the means to jump through the red-tape hoops required by NTIA.
The problem, as city and county broadband planners see it, has less to do with technology than with the sheer legwork required to create an acceptable proposal.
Applicants must prove that all the areas they propose to serve would meet a narrow federal definition of being underserved -- that 50 percent or more households in the area lack broadband access, or that fewer than 40 percent of the households already subscribe to broadband. That puts the burden on cities and counties to undertake expensive and time-consuming door-to-door surveys, because telephone and cable companies don't reveal which areas they serve.
In the meantime, private companies like Qwest are not even sure they will participate as they do not like the requirements that grantees operate the network without discriminating against some kinds of content (meaning they want to charge more to visit some sites than others). Though Qwest has not been as bullish on this money-making idea as AT&T, one assumes it is not too far off.
Telephony's Ed Gubbins also comments on the many municipalities that have little hope of grants under NTIA's rules:
One group of broadband stimulus hopefuls that has been in large part swept out of the running by the specifics of the plan is individual municipalities of any size. Though the stimulus plan stoked broad interest from municipalities earlier this year, many of them have been frustrated by the program’s preference for “underserved areas,” which the government has defined as areas where where at least half of all households lack broadband, where fewer than 40% of households subscribe to broadband, or where no service provider advertises broadband transmission speeds of at least 3 Mb/s.
Those rules sent the city of Northfield, Minnesota, for example, which had hoped to secure stimulus funds, back to the drawing board in its efforts to finance its plans. Melissa Reeder, Northfield’s information technology director, told the local press, “Honestly, I don’t think there’s a single Minnesota city that would qualify.”