TMCnews Featured Article
October 13, 2009
Existing Rural Providers Should Receive Broadband Stimulus Funding: Applicant
By Michael Dinan, TMCnet Editor
With the amount of internal resources and know-how required to apply for federal dollars under the government’s broadband stimulus program, smaller organizations had a very difficult time navigating the process, according to the head of one Gualala, Calif.-based cable TV company that’s seeking to restore high-speed broadband Internet services to a remote area of the state that’s been without them fore more than two years.
Thomas E. Gelardi, owner and LLC manager of Central Valley Cable TV, LLC , told TMCnet in an interview (printed in full below) that gathering engineering certifications, legal opinions and financial statements “was, to say the least, taxing.”
“The process (and the application ratings) was clearly geared to larger organizations,” Gelardi said. “Points should have been given for entities serving adjacent rural areas and increased by the number of years the entity has been in business (survived). Instead, additional points were granted based on the size of the application, the number of political ties (partnerships) the entity has, and so on.”
Right now, federal officials are reviewing – among others – CVC’s request for $695,940 to expand the company’s existing broadband coverage area to include the City of Point Arena, two Indian Rancherias, and the unincorporated area of Manchester in rural Mendocino County. The company’s application also seeks future Internet backbone capacity through the installation of a fiber backbone from AT&T’s (News - Alert) and Level 3’s faciliites in Manchester, CA to applicant’s NOC in Gualala and its hub on The Sea Ranch.
For Gelardi, if the government wants broadband more available to rural areas, there is no one better suited than the existing rural providers to achieve the goal economically.
“My business is not currently dependent on serving these areas or they would be served, without assistance these areas will remain unserved,” he told TMCnet.
Our full exchange follows.
TMCnet: We’ve read the Executive Summary of your application, and clearly the organization feels there’s a strong need for funding. Take us a little bit beyond the numbers. How will U.S. citizens, consumers and businesses benefit if you’re awarded this grant money?
Thomas E. Gelardi: If you share the government’s belief that broadband access has or is fast becoming as fundamental a need as access to power and phone (which have been subsidized for decades), then the monies applied for will allow for the expansion of CVC’s existing service area to rural areas which without assistance would remain uneconomical to serve. From an economic standpoint it is clearly advantageous to expand existing infrastructure than to re-create it.
TMCnet: How did you find the application process? What would you recommend the U.S. government tweak in the process, if anything?
TG: Given the time frame allowed and the resources necessary the process was overwhelming for an organization our size. Requiring legal opinions, five years of pro-forma financial statements, engineering certifications was to, say the least, taxing. The process (and the application ratings) was clearly geared to larger organizations. Points should have been given for entities serving adjacent rural areas and increased by the number of years the entity has been in business (survived). Instead, additional points were granted based on the size of the application, the number of political ties (partnerships) the entity has, etc.
TMCnet: What would you tell reviewers at NTIA about your organization if you could have one minute to talk to them moments before they looked at your application?
TG: Keep in mind we’ve survived doing business in these rural markets for decades without assistance. We can get more done, faster, and for less money than any outsider or large entity. The thought of free monies being given to newly formed organizations with no local operating experience or even worse governmental entities to come and compete with us with no skin in the game is frightful, given that we’ve been pouring every penny of cash flow back into our operations for years.
TMCnet: Tell us in plain terms how important it is for your organization to receive this grant money. If you do not receive government funding, what will you do to improve services in the way you’re seeking?
TG: If the government, as a policy, wishes to have broadband made available to rural areas there is no one better suited than the existing rural providers to achieve the goal economically. My business is not currently dependent on serving these areas or they would be served, without assistance these areas will remain unserved.
Michael Dinan is a contributing editor for TMCnet, covering news in the IP communications, call center and customer relationship management industries. To read more of Michael's articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Michael Dinan