Monday, March 23, 2009

NTIA public hearing in Las Vegas

On March 17, 2009 I have attended NTIA public hearing for broadband in Las Vegas, NV. The meeting consisted of 3 panel discussions. It was one from a series of 7 public hearing that held in Washington DC, Arizona, and Nevada. Each panel discussion was an hour long. During this one hour 5 panelists expressed their opinion on the use the $7 billion stimulus money for the development of broadband. Mark Seifert, the lead of the policy side for NTIA broadband grant, host two of the panel discussions. You can find the list of panelist under NTIA broadband grant web page. After each panel discussion the public, from VP of cox communication to myself, was given half an hour to ask their question and express their comments on the tribune. The first panel was about "Reaching Vulnerable Populations, Driving Demand and the Role of Strategic Institutions". Two of the panelist were representing Indian tribes. One of them, Karen Twenhafel, was representing National Tribal Telecommunication Association (NTTA). She was an extremely passionate speaker. The panel addressed three subjects: 1) broadband for Nevada 2)industry usage of broadband 3)broadband in tribal land, with stronger focus on the third subject because of the interest of the panelists and the audience. The second panel addressed "the definition of broadband". I think the second panel was the most diverse one among the three. It consists of a representative of the National Congress of American Indians, economic development professor, the president of, Las Vegas Police department speaker, a digital literacy project director in San Francisco, and the president elect of the Association of Public Safety Communication Officials (APCO). Two of the the panelist suggested hard bandwidth requirements for defining broadband. I will talk more about their definitions in my future posts. One of them suggested that for the new players in the field of broadband we should set a 5Mbps limit for downlink if they want to grant them any money from NTIA fund. The last panelist from APCO objected that we should not limit the definition of broadband any particular number of bits per second. My estimate is that 150 people were present in the meeting. When the last panel started, at 8pm, half of them were gone. The final panelists were representing companies that had a record of developing broadband in the rural areas. The topic of discussion was "Selection Criteria and Weighing Priorities". Every one unanimously agreed that nothing from the government fund should go to big telecommunication companies. The host quoted from a republican congressman that, "The only thing worse than subsidizing competition is subsidizing monopoly." There was also a strong believe that the money should not be spent on any kind of research. They also made it clear that nothing related to white space communication will be included in the grant.