June 2, 2009
The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners wants the federal agencies overseeing broadband stimulus funds to consult with states before disbursing the money to avoid project delays.
NARUC leaders wrote to leaders at the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) and the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) on Friday, asking them to consult with states to make sure that stimulus funds flow quickly. "The recent announcement that funds are now targeted to be released at the end of the year has an unfortunate and undoubtedly unforeseen unfair impact on grant proposals," they wrote. "By December winter conditions in many states will, at a minimum, certainly inhibit construction activity. It appears this delay in releasing the funds is related to perceived difficulties in processing and reviewing the anticipated flood of applications each agency is likely to receive." NARUC said the states could help speed up the process, but without their help federal organizations will struggle to effectively review thousands of applications that are expected to pour in. NARUC wants each state to review and provide a preliminary ranking of applications submitted to provide service and for the federal agencies to give weight to those recommendations. "Proceeding in this way presents the best possible odds that the funds will be properly expended on projects that have a realistic opportunity of expanding broadband penetration in the United States," the letter explained. "After all, states have intimate knowledge of their communications, economic environment, geography, and demographics along with every incentive to make certain the money is not wasted and is properly targeted. They also cumulatively have much more experience with the real social and financial costs and difficulties." Finally, the group wants state governors to designate state entities to review and rank applications based on NTIA and RUS criteria and rank them.
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