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Geoff Daily

App-Rising.com covers the development and adoption of broadband applications, the deployment of and need for broadband networks, and the demands placed on policy to adapt to the revolutionary opportunities made possible by the Internet.

App-Rising.com is written by Geoff Daily, a DC-based technology journalist, broadband activist, marketing consultant, and Internet entrepreneur.

App-Rising.com is supported in part by AT&T;, however all views and opinions expressed herein are solely my own.

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January 22, 2009 1:18 PM

Why Republicans Should Love The Rural Fiber Fund

The Rural Fiber Fund is precisely the kind of broadband stimulus Republicans should be able to behind. Why? Because it aligns with many facets of their core ideals. Let me count the ways:

1. It's a small government initiative.
At the core of the RFF is an effort to reduce the need for burdensome administration and regulations so that government can support the acceleration of broadband deployment and not slow it down as most other big government programs have done to date.

2. It's market-driven.
Instead of government trying to determine what projects are financially viable, the RFF leverages the expertise of the private capital markets to pick projects worthy of funding. In this way we move government away from picking winners and losers and instead rely on the market to decide.

3. It's community-centric.
Rather than a top-down approach of federal and state government making decisions about what's best for communities, the RFF equips localities with matching grants for preplanning costs that will help them determine their own future. By doing this we reward communities that are progressive over those that are just politically connected. We don't just hand out entitlements, we support those who take the initiative.

4. It maximizes government dollars.
Grants count dollar for dollar against the budget. Loans demand lots of administrative overhead to vet applications and require government to take on all of the risk. Partial loan guarantees, though, leverage private capital to share the risk and put up the funds to build networks while reducing the cost of administration. For every billion dollars worth of budget authority, $25 billion in loan guarantees can be distributed, which enables $50 billion in private investment.

5. It will allow America to compete in the global economy.
If globalism is a good thing and we prioritize competition over protectionism, then we need to get America equipped with the world-class broadband of full fiber networks that our global competitors are already deploying. Anything less will set us at a competitive disadvantage and hurt our ability to maintain our position as an economic leader in the 21st century.

6. It secures the future of small town America.
If Republicans truly believe that the heart and soul of America can be found in small town America, then they need to prove their commitment to the continued viability of rural communities by supporting this initiative that will bring them the world-class broadband they need so they can not just survive but thrive in the digital economy.


I don't consider myself a Republican or a Democrat, but at a time when the relationships between the two sides are splintering during the debate around the economic stimulus package, the Rural Fiber Fund seems like the rare opportunity to push forward a program that can garner bipartisan approval.

So I'd encourage all Republicans on the Hill to consider strongly the possibility of supporting and even championing the inclusion of the RFF as one of their contributions to the overall economic stimulus package. By doing so they'll demonstrate their forward-looking tech savvy, prove their commitment to rural America, and be able to claim credit for the transformative changes that will begin to occur as fiber gets deployed across rural America.

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