NTIA head Larry Strickling has suggested that if an incumbent wants to veto a stimulus grant in its territory, the data it uses to show the area is served will be on the public record. As this is a step in the direction of making such information public, it is good. However, there is still no clear method of appealing such a veto.
Craig Settles has called for letters to the NTIA asking for a deadline extension for the first round of grant applications. Muniwireless.com published a commentary explaining why a delay is a good idea.
West Virginia, one of the most-underserved states by broadband providers, is starting to worry much of the state may not qualify for broadband funds according to the Charleston Daily Mail. Unfortunately, they are relying on data from the industry-backed Connected Nation operation, so who knows? Being so heavily influenced by incumbents, Connected Nation significantly overstates existing coverage.
However, the story is interesting in pointing out that the approach taken by NTIA will not result in sustainable network. Because network deployers must stick to the areas of least density, they have no revenue base with which to cover operating costs. Once the stimulus money goes away, one wonders how many of these networks will fold -- though NTIA has claimed that networks must demonstrate fiscal viability after the grants run out.
Champaign-Urbana is planning a fiber network contingent on stimulus funds. They have had to scale back plans for the network due to the stringent definition for "underserved." Illinois has set aside $50 million to help Illinois applicants as each applicant must provide 20% of the project cost to qualify under stimulus rules. The project will fund connections to the home in 11 census blocks that are currently underserved...
Public sector agencies are the nation’s largest telecom customers. A community with a population of 40,000 purchases an estimated $1.1 million dollars annually in telecom services – costs offset by use of I-Nets. Imagine the devastation on local budgets when state video franchising laws eliminate I-Nets as compensation for use of public right-of-way. It’s rumored that a cable operator can charge a California community $45,000 a month to use a thirty-drop I-Net that, prior to passage of the state video franchising law, had been part of payments for use of public rights-of-way.