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March 25, 2010 2:12 PM

Why Are Some Applicants Still In Broadband Stimulus Purgatory?

America's broadband stimulus program continues to get more and more absurd. On March 22nd, NTIA released a list of the status of remaining BTOP applications. On that list were a number of applications still pending, their status unresolved despite having submitted applications seven months ago.

The original timeline of the broadband stimulus program called for three rounds of funding. That got compressed to two rounds, with the first round being significantly smaller than the second. And yet NTIA and RUS still haven't been able to get all their funds allocated in a timely manner.

Now we're hours away from NTIA's deadline for round two applications and days away from RUS's deadline, and yet some first round applicants still don't know there fate.

So what that means is that any still pending applications that get rejected will have no chance to reapply in the second round. What makes this so absurd is that these are the applications that presumably are some of the best of the best as they've made it this far. And yet NTIA and RUS are denying them a fair opportunity to reapply.

I wish I could say that at least this is a limited set of applicants being affected, but we really don't know the scope of it. I've heard of applications still getting rejected as recently as last week, giving them less than two weeks to reapply.

How is this acceptable? How is Congress OK with NTIA and RUS living down to the stereotype that government isn't capable of effectively and efficiently subsidizing broadband?

While I respect that NTIA and RUS faced a massive challenge in trying to process thousands of complex applications, how are they able to sleep at night knowing that they're screwing over dozens if not hundreds of hard working applicants? Do they have no respect for the time, energy, and money applicants have spent jumping through the hoops they created?

This is borderline criminal mismanagement. And it extends beyond just how NTIA and RUS are screwing broadband stimulus finalists. We're also seeing them do things like add answers to the FAQs less than a week before the deadline to apply. It's likely that many people have already applied that won't even be able to address these clarifications in their applications.

What's most galling to me in all of this is that no one seems to be even considering the possibility of putting the brakes on the broadband stimulus. The train has obviously run off the tracks, and yet no one's making any serious effort to get them back on line. Instead we've got RUS and NTIA barreling forward only interested in how can they go faster, Congress ignoring this misdirection entirely, and the American people, who the train is supposed to help, are too desperate for that help to criticize the direction of things vocally lest they piss off the train's conductors.

The broadband stimulus is a national embarrassment. I am ashamed that we've come this far and yet accomplished so little. I'm infuriated that NTIA and RUS think it's OK to mistreat applicants in this way. And I'm despondent over the sense I have that little can be done to right the ship.

But putting all that aside, what I want to know is, how can NTiA and RUS justify applications still being stuck in broadband stimulus purgatory? What's their excuse? How are they going to make things right and fair for these projects?

We can't allow them to get away with not answering these questions. The American people have a right to know what's going on with our tax dollars. Now let's see if NTIA and RUS will step up to explain themselves.

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