I read, with some puzzlement I will admit, the Executive Order that President Obama put out today to make broadband construction faster and cheaper. This priority struck me as a huge contradiction given the continued policy challenges on the FCC front regarding our efforts to fix the USF caps, stop the regulatory uncertainty in the Further Notice and ongoing efforts to ensure that erroneous data is fixed in the regression analysis. While I applaud what I think is an effort to expedite broadband construction through a more uniform approach to rights of ways, and other impediments to construction projects–this comes on the virtual heels of EPA looking to make a power grab with an effort to regulate ditches and gullies on private property. Then, under US Ignite, there is an effort to form a public-private partnership to create new waves of services that will take advantage of networks and the development of new applications to increase services (hmmm, sounds like our Smart Rural Community effort with a few bigger players at the table!). Given that the Executive Order talks about partnership with USDA, Commerce and the FCC, I continue to feel like there is a big disconnect between the Administration’s goals–which are laudable–and what is taking place on the ground and in the regulatory arena. At the NTCA Summer Business Conference this week, I talked with numerous NTCA members who discussed the hundreds of millions of dollars in stimulus funding they have returned or will not be able to draw down given the regulatory uncertainty and hence their potential inability to pay these funds back. Telcos who have not been able to receive RUS funding as the agency waits for new financials given the FCC order and companies even sitting, waiting to receive approval on USDA broadband loans that have been in the pipeline for months. If the President’s only goal of this Executive Order is to “ignite” broadband in urban markets, he might get the result he is looking for, but I am afraid that without changes in FCC policy, these initiatives are of token use in rural America.
Jun 13 2012
A Broadband Contradiction?
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