Minneapolis, MN—(March 30, 2008). The Federal Government is currently taking public comments on how to distribute the $7.2 billion in the stimulus package allocated to improve broadband access and speeds.
Some private service providers are exhibiting a sense of entitlement as they argue for rules that will push public dollars to their businesses. As reported by Reuters, one representative from telecommunications industry group Comptel recently noted it worrries the government will require fast speeds that would reduce its profits!
Christopher Mitchell, Director of the Telecommunications as Commons Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, is infuriated by these comments. “These grants are supposed to bring broadband to areas which are currently underserved – they are not supposed to enrich the very companies that have profited handsomely as the entire country slips further down the international broadband rankings every year.”
Grants are to be targeted at unserved and underserved areas, terms that have not yet been defined.
The language of Title VI of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act creating the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program encourages nonprofit and community ownership. States, counties, cities, and nonprofits are all specifically cited as eligible for grants. Other entities may be included at the discretion of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which will distribute many of the grants, but only if these entities are found “to be in the public interest.”
Mitchell, who has authored several reports on publicly owned broadband networks, applauds the focus on public and nonprofit groups. “Community owned networks around the country offer some of the fastest speeds at the most affordable prices. These networks are accountable to the community, hire local people for support, and put community needs above shareholder profits.”