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ACA: Stimulus Unfair To Small Incumbents

5/03/2010 12:01 AM Eastern

Washington — Small and medium-sized telecommunications
and information service providers have
been “effectively excluded” from the broadband stimulus
program, thanks to rules that are unfair and unbalanced
and a program that has been poorly run.

Meanwhile, cable’s “overbuilding” rivals have been given
government grants to provide broadband service in
competition to those operators.

Wave Broadband chief operating officer Steve Friedman,
chairman of independent cable group the American Cable
Association, made those claims in a broadband oversight
hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business
& Entrepreneurship last week.

While the broadband-stimulus grant programs administered
by the National Telecommunications & Information
Administration and Rural Utilities Service are
well-meaning, they are “poorly developed and implemented”
and should have been directed to unserved areas,
Friedman said in prepared testimony.

He cited three examples in which ACA members were
in line to be overbuilt with grant or loan money from the
program. He urged the the agencies to review and modify
all proposals of all first-round awardees to ensure that
no funding will be used to overbuild existing Internet access
providers and then concentrate in the second round
on providing loans and grants “to the truly unserved areas
of the country.”

The NTIA just finished handing out grants for its first
of two rounds of bidding, and is currently vetting the second
round.

Reforms the ACA would like to see include changes to
set-top and pole-attachment rules.

NTIA administrator Larry Strickling said he had heard
the criticisms and said he did not think they were “serious
objections.”

Strickling said NTIA focuses on where it could bring the
most benefits, including underserved as well as unserved
areas. “An underserved area by defi nition is an area that
has a certain amount of service,” he said.

The NTIA also looks to see how widespread broadband
service is and what speeds are offered, he said. “Many
places that may see fairly slow consumer speeds may not
be providing the high-speed Internet that the anchor institutions
like the schools and the hospitals and the government
facilities need,” he said.

September