Sunday, June 17, 2012

Connected company muscled state agency out of Internet contract - Florida -

Connected company muscled state agency out of Internet contract - Florida - TALLAHASSEE -- In 2009, with more than a quarter of all Floridians without broadband access to the Internet at home, state officials lined up to get some of the $7 billion in federal stimulus money to finance state-based programs to increase access.

Enter Connected Nation, a little known but well connected Washington-based company. It won the Florida contract to use $2.5 million to map the broadband gaps for use by policy makers and telecommunications companies.

A year later, when the state won a second grant for $6.3 million to extend the broadband efforts, Connected Nation, a non-profit company, believed it had signed up to be part of a public-private partnership with the state that entitled the firm to a no-bid shot at that money too. But the Department of Management Services, the state agency that housed the project, disagreed.

DMS said the grant requires it to use some of the money to pay for three more years of broadband mapping and the rest to expand broadband access in libraries and schools.
The real story here is the tragic policy failure of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to provide technical assistance funding to communities interested in building their own open access fiber to the premises networks instead of dubious "broadband mapping" projects.  It would have been a far more productive use of money to fill in the gaps with actual infrastructure instead of wasting it creating maps that won't connect homes in Florida and other states that remain disconnected from the Internet.

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