Why is this page text-only?

« It's Official: No Broadband Will Be Stimulated This Year (Or Will It?) | Main | The New UTOPIA: Transforming Failure Into Success »

May 21, 2009 7:55 AM

The Broadband Stimulus: Let's Give Them Something to Talk About

Recently I wrote a post lamenting the unintended consequences of the broadband stimulus, responding to stories I'd heard of projects that could be deploying today but instead have decided to hold off in the hopes of getting free government money.

But in that post I came off as overly negative, claiming that the stimulus may be causing more harm than good given that we're still months away from those dollars turning into deployment.

In response to this I've had a steady string of readers rebuking that sentiment because of one very important and very positive consequence of the broadband stimulus: it's getting everyone talking about broadband.

Before the stimulus there were tons of communities that weren't really talking or thinking about their broadband needs and fewer still that were in the process of developing plans to address those needs. But now every community is at least starting to have those conversations.

Before the stimulus it was hard to get the different stakeholders in a community around the same table to talk broadband as they either didn't care enough about it, didn't understand it, or saw nothing but a huge cost. Now the stimulus is sparking a coming together across the nation where everyone's talking about what they can do to get themselves wired.

Before the stimulus there were many communities for which broadband was a pipe dream. They just didn't have the money to consider doing anything and their market wasn't attractive enough to attract private investment. Now there's a significant chunk of money to help get them wired.

What's most exciting is that the kinds of conversations and people coming together the stimulus is inspiring is precisely what needs to be happening to get all communities wired regardless of the stimulus. So even if a community doesn't win out and get BTOP or RUS money--and we have to be realistic that most won't get money as there's not enough to go around--they'll still have made progress towards having an actionable plan for getting broadband.

And with this plan they can be ready to funnel the additional federal support that I think we'll see coming, assuming this broadband stimulus is a success, or as the basis for finding additional ways to fund/incentivize deployment.

While I often am critical of the government for moving too slow with distributing funds and not being aspirational enough in their goals, and the reality is that in terms of spurring deployment and creating jobs the stimulus has had little effect to date, at the same time the best consequence of the broadband stimulus has been its impact on stimulating interest in and serious efforts towards all communities getting wired with broadband.

The question moving forward will be, once the stimulus money runs out, what will we be able to do to leverage this catalyst to keep all communities on the path towards a more wired future? Will this interest wane once there aren't any more federal dollars to be competed for, or can this lay the groundwork for sustained interest and real action?

Because if these discussions can get all communities into a lean-forward mode, then that's potentially an even bigger deal than just $7 billion.

So while the stimulus may not yet be stimulating actual deployment or creating real jobs (other than for consultants and lawyers), it is already having a profound impact on stimulating interest in broadband and the conversations around how to get it that are needed regardless of what happens with those stimulus dollars.

Del.icio.us Digg Yahoo! My Web Seed Newsvine reddit Technorati


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)