The Double-Edge Sword of Broadband Stimulus Quotes

In pushing the cause of community broadband, media coverage is a double-edged sword. Generally, the upside of getting exposure for one’s thoughts is shadowed by the fact that your thoughts are truncated to fit within the 1,100-word limit of an article or TV news segment.

Last week’s NY Times piece on the stimulus bill is such a sword. Some major advocates of the bill weren’t happy with its perception of negativity. In a 30-minute interview, a lot gets said besides the two or three sentences that eventually show up in print, so let me replay some of my thoughts you didn’t get in the Times.

This interview started with, “do you think the stimulus bill will actually generate jobs.” I addressed the terms and stipulations that determine where the money goes and in what form (e.g. grants, tax credits, loan guarantees). Some of these as presented currently could hinder short- and long-term benefits for the people who need them most.

Congress, nix any form of tax credits that are granted on a promise of future highspeed networks. States such Pennsylvania went for that sucker play with incumbents who take the credits now, but keep shuffling out some song and dance about how “it’s taking us longer than expected to deliver. However, next year…” The heck with that!! Grant not one dime of tax credit until network projects are locked in contractually with state or local governments, preferably with ironclad penalty clauses for failure to deliver.

Most of the stimulus money needs to do directly to state and local governments because they know best how to put this money to work, and many rural areas have plans already written for networks. The House version of the bill seems to be crafted by folks who better understand the needs of the people who ultimately will use the technology. However, do you want these funds to be administered by a Commerce Dept. that’s about to be headed by a far-right Senator who tried to abolish the entire department? Hmm, the Aggies could look a lot more promising.

I still wonder, given how much they hear from lobbyists versus communities, if Congress understands the full range of economic benefits and recovery broadband represents. They’re moving too fast to do proper needs analysis, the point of my quote. Probably more of this money should get out of D.C. ASAP into states and regions that have already done that analysis, and with as few telco-influenced stipulations as possible.

The interview concluded with me laying out a list of the many ways broadband can impact job creation, generate home-based businesses, improve youth and adult learning (which directly impacts their employability) and raise the quality of healthcare delivery which, by the way, affects other healthcare-related items in the overall stimulus bill.

If you really care about what’s contained in this broadband stimulus bill, you should find out who’s on the conference committee to resolve the House and Senate versions and get in their face, or e-mail box, or phone line. You get the picture.

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