Friday, April 17, 2009
policy making on the fast lane
"Traditionally there is a 1-2 years gap between a public hearing and a call for proposals for the government grants, particularly Federal Communication Commission (FCC) grants." quoting a consultant at Richard S. Becker & Associates, Chartered. However, the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009 is planning to have the first set of deadlines for broadband expansion proposals around 3 month after the public hearings. Here is the NTIA schedule for spending the $4.7 billion grant, in conjunction with the FCC: - 7 Public hearing meetings were held March 12-24, 2009 - Deadline to submit a public comment to either NTIA or FCC was April 13, 2009 (it is still possible to submit a comment on the NTIA web site. But I am not sure if they will be considered.) - There will be 3 sets of deadlines for submitting proposals. The approximate dates for the proposal deadlines are April-June 2009, Oct-Dec 2009, and April-June 2010. - Based on the Congress plan, all awards are to be made by the end of the September 2010 and all projects are to be completed within two years of an award. Participants in the public hearing of NTIA in Las Vegas, were understandably concerned about this fast pace. Some were skeptical that the grant might go to waste. But the majority of participants were trying to be optimistic. My observation was that most of the attendees were representing small companies who had a history of working with the government through Universal Service Fund (USF). USF is a grant for approximately $7 billion every year, so it has a similar scale as the stimulus grant. Some of these veterans were complaining that they have seen a lot of new faces in the public hearings in Washington DC. They were clearly concerned about opportunists who smell money! There was a minority from large telecommunication companies, particularly cox communications. However, the NTIA representatives clearly addressed that the fund is not going to be granted to large telecommunication companies. They are focusing on creating competition in under-served areas so that the cost of broadband access will drop. I also like to be an optimist and hope that the fund will build an infrastructure that drives our economy for the next decade. What are your thoughts?