Critics lash out at NTIA and RUS broadband stimulus grant rules

If you have downloaded my How to Get a Grant Guide: Part 1, you’ll know I don’t think much of the broadband stimulus grant application requirements. They’re ridiculous. They’re not the rules a government that is absolutely serious about broadband would ever dream of adopting. They ask applicants to submit exactly the kind of information they don’t have — regarding broadband penetration and subscriber numbers in the relevant census blocks —  information that is allowed by the very same government to be hidden from the public’s eyes by the “confidentiality” excuse.

So who else but the carriers and their buddies (or those very few communities and states that have done extensive broadband mapping) can meet these requirements? Maybe THAT is the whole point.

Harold Feld launches a blistering attack on the NTIA and RUS rules:

“Bluntly, the more NTIA/RUS folk talk, especially in response to how the ranking criteria will be implemented, it becomes clear that there is a phenomenal disconnect between what officials say they want, and what the NOFA ranking criteria and documentary requirements actually reward. Officials and the text of the NOFA still speak earnestly and sincerely about bringing in new providers and programs with well-designed dynamic programs that combine provision of network services, computers, training and community involvement to genuinely stimulate new ways of deploying and employing broadband. But if you dig into the ranking criteria and the documentation requirements, what the system actually rewards is the most boring, conservative, stove-piped traditional applications by the usual suspects.”

Geoff Daily posted his top ten ways the NTIA/RUS fails America and among them is this:

Giving incumbents right-of-refusal provides opportunity to falsify information to derail projects.
If there is an incumbent provider anywhere in the service area of an application they’ll have 20 days to respond to it. Essentially what this gives them is an opportunity to try and derail the project by “upgrading” their speeds or being less than honest about their service areas, which is something I’ve heard incumbents are known to do, things like drawing a circle around a central office and claiming service is offered everywhere therein even if it’s not. And again, it’s not that I think all incumbents are evil, it just seems like we’re giving them too many opportunities and incentives to lie and seemingly not doing anything to balance that out with potential punishments for bad actors.

I had mentioned last week the insanity of asking volunteers to review the applications. Fortunately, many long-time MuniWireless readers emailed me and echoed the same sentiments. We’re realistic. We know Washington DC does not change overnight despite the last presidential campaign’s slogan, “Change We Can Believe In.” There are far too many lobbyists who are paid millions of dollars to crawl around DC making sure nothing really changes the status quo. So we have to make our own plans and go ahead and deploy our broadband networks – not the 768 Kbps/200 Kbps rubbish that the rules consider to be “broadband”.

Wait till the governors’ offices of the states get their hands on the applications. According to the rules, the states do have a say in what gets funded and what does not. This is where the coolest projects get killed.


  1. Brett Glass says

    There is nothing wrong with a standard of 768/200 for “broadband.” Remember, in many rural areas, bandwidth can cost $400 per Mbps per month or more. At that cost, even assuming 4x oversale (a risky proposition in these days of streaming video), a 768K line still costs the provider $76.80 at wholesale JUST FOR BANDWIDTH. And this doesn’t cover equipment, support, or any of the provider’s other costs, which would drive the price of the connection up to around $90 per month.

    Very few people want to pay that much for their Internet connections (most can pay about $30 or $40 per month), so even this standard may make service unaffordable.

  2. There is nothing wrong with 768/200 for a broadband in a second rate nation that does not want to have the world’s strongest economy any longer.

    Brett’s $400/Mbps is due to overcharging by monopolistic providers, not a true reflection of the costs of bandwidth.

  3. ralph drake says

    I live in a rural area of upstate ny. I saw a ad
    for hughesnet broadband offering the stimulus package within a 60 mile range. I live abot 30 miles from this dealer. When i called them they said my address wasn’t eligible.The only boradband people have in my area is hughesnet satellite.It seems Hughesnet doesn’t want to offer their stimulus broadband in markets where they are the biggest provider.