PFF Pushes Government for Open Bidding on Broadband Grant and Loan Money

Say companies shouldn't be bound to nondiscrimination rules or definitions of "underserved" areas

The Progress and Freedom Foundation (PFF) has told the government that to achieve its goal of ubiquitous broadband, it should make sure companies are free to bid on broadband grant and loan money without worrying about delivering "super-fast" service initially, being bound by new nondiscrimination rules, or being held to an "ill-defined" concept of "underserved" areas.

PFF President and former FCC Media Bureau Chief Ken Ferree made that argument in comments to the FCC, National Telecommunications & Information Administration, and the Ag Department's Rural Utilities Service, which must combine to quickly dole out $7.2 billion in economic stimulus funds for broadband deployment.

Comments were due Monday (April 14) on how to hand out that money, which it must do by September of next year.

PFF argues that the priority should be to square the program with the economic stimulus package's goal which it says is "to quickly provide economic stimulus that leads to immediate job creation."

Given that charter, says Ferree, the program needs to focus on "carefully targeted funding of sustainable projects that bring the most per buck per job created."

The recipe consists of "broadband stimulus funds should be used first and foremost to support
broadband development in un-served and markedly underserved areas of the
country," with "markedly un-served" being places where only a "small fraction" have access to broadband service.

And "broadband" should be defined as the current FCC definition of 768 kilobytes per second in at least one direction as the difference between underserved and served and that un-served be defined as no terrestrial broadband service.

PFF says there should be no eligibility restrictions.