The agenda’s available for the FCC/RUS/NTIA meeting next Tuesday (3/10). It looks to be a pretty innocuous affair. We lucky souls who get seats will see agency senior brass who most of us probably won’t get close to again in life. We could all be pleasantly surprised if they say anything during the first 40 minutes that’s noteworthy. But I’m guessing not.
The next 20 minutes could provide some insight to how steep a hill folks are going to have to climb to get to those grants. The final 30 minutes of Q & A? This is a pretty good analogy for the broadband stimulus bill conundrum. There are way more people (500+) needing answers than there are time and resources (staff) to meet the need. A lot of folks are going to leave that meeting not fully satisfied.
If you’ve been writing or following reports about how many public and private sector entities in states nationwide are lining up wish lists for broadband grants, you see the really big issue that trumps all others. There are way more organizations coming in with broadband needs than there are time, money and (maybe) agency staff to meet these needs.
So the really big question on March 10 is: in a year, will the logistics of administering this money have worked well enough so at least a reasonable number of communities are satisfied with the result? Yeah, there are a lot of pressing policy questions that determine who benefits from these grants and by how much. But none of this matters if the grant-administration process implodes under the weight of demand.