Friday, February 6, 2009 - The Progress & Freedom Foundation Blog

Further Oddities in the "Broadband Stimulus" Bill

I wrote recently about the dangers lurking in the House version of the "broadband Stimulus" bill. Critically, the House bill fails to define essential terms in the proposed grant program, leaving award decisions largely to the discretion of the administrating agency; by "discretion" I mean political whim.

The Senate version of the bill does little better. The Senate, it appears, would like the administrating agency to consult with state officials in determining those areas that are eligible to receive funding under the program, thus adding yet another layer of potential political horse trading.

Odder still, the Senate version would limit eligibility to receive broadband stimulus funds to state and local governments, non-profits, and public-private partnerships. Huh? Is this about pushing broadband to rural, underserved communities, or is it about bailing out bankrupt, mismanaged states? If the former, the eligibility restrictions in the bill necessarily undermine the potential success of the program. A person who has fallen overboard cares not who responds, so long as someone gets a life-preserver to them quickly. Why would the ship's captain order in advance that only certain crew members may assist drowning passengers?

To maximize the practical impact of broadband stimulus, the program should be technologically-neutral and applicant-agnostic. That is, decisions should be made based on who can best and fastest deliver high-speed services to those in need, not based on arbitrary criteria reflecting only the subjective preferences of the Senate.

posted by W. Kenneth Ferree @ 11:03 AM | Broadband , Capitol Hill , Communications , Universal Service