Wednesday, July 29, 2009

U.S. broadband stimulus rules favor telco/cable duopoly, turn back clock to 1998

Take a look at Christopher Mitchell's critique of the Notice of Funds Availability (NOFA) issued at the beginning of the month by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) for the first round of grants and loans to subsidize broadband infrastructure allocated in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

Mitchell's complaint is rather than getting the United States on a path toward upgrading its obsolete copper-based telecommunications infrastructure to modern fiber optic-based networks owned by local governments and community-based organizations, the rules instead instead favor incumbent private sector providers and effectively revert to the status quo of a decade ago. That's directly at odds with the intent and language of the ARRA, Mitchell asserts, suggesting the rules will require additional future government subsidies since they encourage construction of on the cheap, technologically obsolete telecom infrastructure in a race to the bottom rather than the top.

Here's an excerpt from Mitchell's How the NTIA Dismantled the Public Interest Provisions of the Broadband Stimulus Package:
NTIA has charted a path to bring the slowest networks to people who live in areas that are the most uneconomical to reach. Rather than doing it right the first time (i.e. a strategy that starts with modern speeds and identifies an upgrade path moving forward), NTIA’s path will likely expand 1998-era networks, certainly requiring future appropriations to bring residents to networks with contemporary speeds.

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