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2/2/2009
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States Want More Say In Broadband Stimulus

The Obama administration has listed stepped-up deployment of broadband as an important part of its plan to help the economy.

Regulators from the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) will be in Washington later this month to urge that states be given the responsibility of using federal funds to be earmarked for broadband deployment.

The group, whose members come from state government agency regulators, will meet in Washington beginning Feb. 15, and the regulators are expected to press their requests at the time. The Obama administration has listed stepped-up deployment of broadband as an important part of its plan to help the economy.

NARUC president Frederick Butler of New Jersey has asked Congress to ensure that states "play a lead role" in the deployment of broadband infrastructure investments. Noting that "states have every incentive to make certain the money is not wasted," Butler added that "states can assure efficient utilization and targeting of stimulus monies."

The NARUC membership has noted that individual states are in different stages of broadband deployment, and each individual state is better positioned to determine its own requirements. Many states have their own programs to improve broadband and they differ in ambition and in success. Kentucky, for instance, has had great success in spreading broadband through its "Prescription for Innovation" program, while Hawaii, which has traditionally been at the bottom of the nation's broadband measurements, is moving aggressively to improve its broadband deployment.

NARUC has issued a list of "principles" that it plans to urge Washington lawmakers to follow. "Early-adopter States should not be penalized," reads one principle. "States that have already spent time and money on broadband initiatives should not be disadvantaged. Likewise, states that are behind in stimulating broadband should have equal ability to access federal funds to expand their broadband efforts."

A long list of regulators from around the country is scheduled for presentations at the meeting. The speakers include Obama transition team member Blair Levin, who is managing director of investment banking firm Stifel Nicolaus.

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