With broadband funding, whose needs are we meeting? Page 2

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It seems the agencies so far have tried to craft broadband rules in which few in the private sector, particularly incumbents lose out, lest there be a charge of government interference with free markets by introducing competition. After eight years of a White House administration that leaned in favor of the big guys, it's hard to shake this culture of wanting to protect large corporate interests from competition.

However, if you (the FCC) say that your mission is to help transform communities by making it easier for them to get broadband technology, then shift the focus of these workshops and planning sessions from telecom industry and insider groups in actual constituents who own the problems and hold the keys to their solutions.

Go into the formally un- and underserved rural and urban areas that have effective community-driven broadband networks to see firsthand what technologies they're using, how these technologies were selected, what were the challenges implementing the technology, what are the challenges keeping everything operational and current. Walk the streets and the country roads to truly understand what economic development agencies are talking about then they say broadband improved businesses. Let the broadband projects' champions tell you the struggles of dealing with recalcitrant incumbents.

I have to stop myself here from going on about next visiting underserved areas to do similar needs analysis because, really, none of this is worth a tinker's damn if agencies hear without listening. If they respond more with political and lobbyist appeasement rather than practical business decisions made in response to the needs of the clients. The problem is where the fine art of making national, politically impacted public policy trumps good broadband business practices. So minimize the negatives.

What should our national broadband strategy be? A set of rules for general technology parameters that a good broadband network should adhere to, a guide that teaches communities how to do effective technology-neutral and vendor-neutral needs assessments and a fund/resource pool for communities to tap. Oh yeah, make sure the people writing the rules for getting the grants is a Twitter fiend. Anyone who spends half their life communicating in 140-charater messages will probably write a nice set of comprehensive and comprehensible rules.

Then let the communities identify their needs, select their own vendors from whatever selection of vendors and services providers they choose to assemble, develop a network business plan and apply for money and resources. You will get the best broadband solutions suited to the specific needs of our respective communities across the nation.

Craig Settles, President of Successful.com, is an industry expert who helps organizations pursue stimulus grants. Follow Craig at twitter.com/cjsettles

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