Private sector: Just give us the (broadband stimulus) money

Cable, wireless and satellite providers have put together a united front on broadband stimulus grant monies, telling the National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA) that it should simply allow private companies to apply for the $4.7 billion in federal cash without having to partner with governments or other eligible entities in the process. Needless to say, a variety of others pointed out that private sector companies were the ones who hadn't invested the resources in broadband so they needed to work with the government before they got the money.

Currently, the economic stimulus package law says government, nonprofit and tribal organizations are all free to apply for broadband buildout money, but service and network providers can only apply if the NTIA determines if is in the public interest. The Independent Telephone and Telecommunications Alliance, speaking for an alliance of private-sector telecom companies, wants NTIA to make eligible any entity that holds an FCC license, a stated certification, cable franchise or similar government authority; since such businesses have been already vetted, no other review is necessary.

Both the Communications Workers of America and Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) came out in support of private industry being able to apply directly for the funds. CWA favored demonstrated job creation to be considered in doling out the funds while TIA argued that the test for funds should be based on the ability to use them to provide efficient and quality service.

On the other side of the coin, a spokesperson for the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, pointed out there was a need for at least a coordination role for state and local government entities in the grants, while the New America Foundation suggested that profit should be a byproduct, not a goal, of the programs, with private sector incumbents being a part of the problem - rather than part of the solution.

For more:
- Multichannel News discusses private sector posturing. Article.

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