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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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February 13, 2009 11:48 AM

All Eyes On NTIA, RUS, and FCC: Who Will Lead US?

So there's been all this talk about what should or shouldn't be in the stimulus package as it relates to broadband, but there are a few big pieces of this puzzle that are glaringly missing: who gets to spend these millions and billions of dollars?

I've learned in my crash course on DC policy-making that while the language of the law is important, perhaps even more significant is who makes the decisions of how to actually spend that money.

This seems especially true today as when push comes to shove there really aren't that many specifics as to how that $7 billion should be spent on broadband in the stimulus bill. Instead those decisions will come at the discretion of whoever's put in charge of the relevant agencies.

But to date we don't know who any of these people will be yet. Of the three agencies charged with making these broadband dreams a reality--the FCC, NTIA, and RUS--none of them have had their leaders officially installed yet. And in fact for the NTIA and RUS, which have been given the most money, we don't even have any good rumors to go on yet. At the FCC Julius Genachowski has been all but confirmed as the new chairman, but even there we still have three seats not yet defined.

I'll have to admit, this is somewhat troubling to me. How can we expect whoever does come into power to be able to make decisions quickly on how to spend all this money when they're still learning where the bathrooms are?

That's why I'm hoping that if able our leaders will put people in place who can hit the ground running. They need to have a working understanding of how their agencies operate so they're not having to learn everything on-the-fly. We need administrators who can start making the big decisions and taking the bold actions that our country needs right away, as otherwise these broadband stimulus dollars could lead to bridges to nowhere.

That's the thing we must all realize: the good intentions of legislation don't matter if those charged with implementing the law aren't up to the task.

Now I'm not saying that good candidates must have experience specifically related to running these various agencies, but what we and they must realize is how much responsibility has now been heaped on their shoulders.

Not only do they have to step into agencies that all need some level of reform, they must also be ready to start spending this money both quickly but also responsibly, efficiently, and effectively.

Because whether or not this broadband stimulus actually stimulates broadband is now the responsibility of the people who will be heading up these organizations.

So needless to say, all eyes will be on who gets these positions and what they do once in power. The next few months should be interesting as this all shakes out. Let's hope that in the end we get people in place who can be partners and enablers rather than continuing the unfortunate tradition of government getting in the way and wasting money rather than actually helping drive the country forward.

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Comments (1)

Along with the issue of who gets the nod to run these departments, which we may or may not have much influence over, there is also the RFPs to be written by NTIA and RUS that will govern administering the grants. I believe it is during this latter process that those of us who support the stimulus bill need to be observant and ready make our voices heard. I go into more detail about this here - http://roisforyou.wordpress.com.

When those RFPs get locked down, it's like that old Flip Wilson show - what you see is what you get, baby.

Posted by Craig Settles on February 16, 2009 7:08 PM

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