What will we do with the money?
by, 23 Mar 2009 at 5:34 PM (5560 Views)
Now that the NTIA stimulus money is approved, and ex parte meetings are being held to organize the administration and deployment of the grants, it's time for localities to begin thinking about the kind of projects they want to propose -- and there's a key issue here I'd like to address. Rather than having a run on the grant funds, in a raid-like fashion, can we develop project proposals that are ethical and sustainable in the long run, after the grant funds go away?
The NTIA funding priorities don't help in this regard, and actually may work against this idea. The NTIA has a two year window to spend $4.7 Million, and the grants are going to be awarded quickly -- most likely on a first come basis. Further, the NTIA funds must go towards projects that are designed to provide connectivity to underserved and unserved rural areas...and these are typically the areas where private service providers can't afford to go since there aren't enough people in the area to support the efforts to serve them.
We won't know for a while if the subsidy of federal funds will be enough offset to make such projects cash-flow...if they don't what will happen? Even if the tower site is held by the local government, the carriers must still be there in order for service to be provided...Would the local government tower owner evenually be forced to charge the carriers $0 for rent on the tower in order for the carriers to continue service?
The Federal stipulations on the funding also include a 2 year time limit on project completion -- which could be far to short a schedule for an ambitious or large project...so are we encouraging more simplistic projects which may not have the impact that well thought out and comprehensive projects might? An example might be how a public safety project to enhance local emergency services communications could be interfaced with a broadband connectivity project to also provide better connectivity to an area -- effectively addressing several objectives at once and possibly saving some funds at the same time. However, NTIA and Federal time constraints may favor the faster, more simplistic project.
We're going to have to wait a while longer to find the results of the NTIA's meetings and organizational efforts, but in the time being, we should be focusing on how to gain the maximum impact from use of the funds, and to focus on creating projects that will be sustainable after the grant funds go away. If we don't we're going to be party to wasting our own tax dollars on someting that ultimately won't make the difference it should.