NTIA's Strickling Touts Success of BTOP

Commits to finding balance of 500 MHz of spectrum by year's end
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National Telecommunications & Information Administration head Larry Strickling took the opportunity of a broadband conference to continue to promote the Obama Administration's (and NTIA-administered) $4 billion BTOP broadband stimulus package as a "resounding success," citing the deployment of 115,000 miles of new or upgraded network, connecting nearly 26,000 anchor institutions—including schools—and adding 670,000 new broadband subs. He also said he will team with the FCC to find the balance of the Administration's wireless spectrum goal by year's end.

Strickling was speaking to a Silicon Flatirons Conference on the Digital Broadband Migration in Boulder, Colo., Jan. 31, according to a copy of his speech.

Strickling made a point of praising EagleNet, the BTOP-funded program in Colorado that was criticized by cable operators for overbuilding and by others over environmental impacts was in the spotlight on Capitol Hill from Republicans, who used it to illustrate their issues with the BTOP subsidies.

Cable operators have been less sanguine about the success of BTOP, arguing that its definition of unserved and underserved allowed for overbuilding of existing commercial plant, and for waste, fraud and abuse of the program.

Strickling said that according to an independent study NTIA commissioned, "communities that received our broadband grant funds experienced an estimated 2 percent greater growth in broadband availability than non-grant communities."

The Obama Administration in 2010 charged NTIA to work with the FCC to free up 500 MHz of additional spectrum for commercial use by 2020. They are about halfway there, he said, adding that he and FCC chairman Tom Wheeler were committed to finding the rest by the end of this year.

“We are pleased that NTIA will identify 250 MHz of spectrum for commercial wireless companies by the end of the year to meet Americans’ demand for mobile-first lifestyles," said CTIA, which represents wireless broadband providers. "In addition to the societal benefits that mobile provides, it’s also a key economic driver: the value of 250 MHz of licensed spectrum for our economy is $77.5 billion and supports more than 2.5 million jobs. We look forward to working with NTIA to identify bands of spectrum that will be most likely to help the United States maintain and advance its leadership in mobile broadband.” 

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