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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 26, 2009 7:20 PM

Northern States Need Broadband Dollars In Weeks Not Months

Everyone I've talked to in DC either agrees with or won't deny that a best-case scenario timeline for broadband dollars to start being distributed as grants or loans is 4-6 months.

Here's a quick flyby of what needs to happen before money start flowing: First we have to define terms like "underserved", then we have to put together the rules that establish what kinds of projects are eligible/encouraged and open them up for public comment, then we have to give time for everyone to prepare/submit applications, then we have to review them in detail, then we have to weigh the merits of competing applications, and only then are we finally able to start handing out money.

But I have a serious problem with us accepting that half a year is the best we can possibly hope for. Why? Because I'm a Minnesotan by birth so I know that if money doesn't get out until August or September that means very little broadband's going to be deployed this year. Why? Because it gets very cold in Minnesota very early.

We need to recognize that for the northern third of the country you can't lay a lot of broadband in the winter and it's winter from at least October until April.

If we're going to get any stimulus effect out of these dollars this year we need to find a way to make capital available right away so that shovel-ready projects can start deploying immediately.

But it's going to be nigh impossible for government to vet grant and loan applications any faster than the timeline laid out at the beginning of this post without inviting a lot of waste, fraud, and abuse into the system. So the only way we can responsibly speedily subsidize deployment is through the creation of a fast-track partial loan guarantee program.

By government stepping in to share the risk we'll unleash a wave of private capital without government having to write a single check upfront. And by relying on the private capital market's to vet which projects deserve funding, we can speed up the process so projects can be funded and deploying in April rather than August.

In this way we can insure that northern states don't miss out on another year's worth of opportunities to do the good work that's needed to get our rural and unserved areas wired up.

Our economy as a whole and rural America in particular can't afford to wait for the gears of government to get up to full speed. We need to be figuring out we can turn subsidies into deployment as quickly as possible.

More thoughts to come on how we can pull off this fast-track partial loan guarantee program properly next week.

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