Thursday, April 30, 2009

National broadband inventory map

Up to $350m of the National Telecommunication and Information Administration (NTIA) Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) funding is designated for the development and maintenance of a broadband inventory map. The specifications and features of the inventory map are yet to be determined. The NTIA is soliciting public comments for defining them. Below, I have listed the potential features from the collected information so far. - It could be in the form of a comprehensive Geographic Information System (GIS) - It is preferred that it is publicly available - It will, most probably, require the release of more detailed information by the communication companies beyond current FCC regulations. Current FFC requirements are described here. - It is preferred to have street level granularity - It can be used for other government planning activities, e.g., education and health care, as well as BTOP The funding has been primarily allocated to guide NTIA to how to spend the $4.2 billion for BTOP. The BTOP is not the first grant by a Federal agency to “subsidize” projects for development in the unserved and under-served areas. Normally, a project that is funded by the government, requires a matching fund from a private sector. The prerequisite is to pass an independent evaluation of the viability of the project itself by the private agency. The current funded projects by the US Department of Agriculture are some examples of this private-public partnership. The broadband grant will have similar steps. To be approved for NTIA funding, a 20% matching fund is required. But it can be waived! The tight credit market might be a reason for having such a low percentage of matching fund and including the possibility of a lift. Now, NTIA has a large stake in the projects. Therefore, it is even more important and critical to review the proposals comprehensively. I can see the necessity of developing a broadband inventory map to guide NTIA in evaluating the grant proposals. However, can NTIA successfully achieve the mapping goal with only $350 million without the support of the communication companies?! Even if it does, how could it possibly maintain the map and keep up with the fast growth of the communication infrastructure?! I will have more about this in the future posts and I would love to hear your ideas! also please check out this article for more information. edited by Behnam Analui

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