TMCnews Featured Article
October 29, 2009
Some Towns May Never Get Broadband Internet without Stimulus Funding: Applicant
By Michael Dinan, TMCnet Editor
It appears to be more difficult for small, unincorporated communities that lack unique ZIP codes or otherwise fail to fit the federal government’s template of the “community,” as outlined in the federal broadband stimulus program, to receive grants and loans, one applicant told TMCnet recently.
Rogers, Ark.-based Foundation Telecommunications, Inc. – a company that serves broadcast, cable, business, government and education clients worldwide – is seeking $5.2 million through the program to bring its two-way commercial satellite Internet service to 115 small communities in Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma and Tennessee.
That seems to fit right into the purpose of the program. The economic stimulus package signed into law earlier this year earmarked $7.2 billion in grant and loan funding for broadband initiatives for rural, unserved, and underserved geographies. Applications were due last month. With a delay that emerged this week – a delay that’s frustrating lawmakers – broadband stimulus grant and loan award announcements have been pushed back to December.
According to FTI’s president and CEO, George Allen (News - Alert) Livergood, the communities targeted in the company’s application for the grant likely won’t ever be able to attract the technology investment required given their isolation from larger communities “and the required investment to extend service to them based upon the classic ‘Homes per Mile of Plant’ line extension formulas.”
“If the intent of the grant is to provide Internet service to rural America where service has not yet reached and may never reach but for the availability of these funds, these unincorporated small rural American communities should be included,” Livergood said in an interview, printed in full below.
What Livergood is saying echoes some of what we’ve heard from smaller applicants before. Larger service providers appear to have a major leg-up over smaller towns and clusters of towns seeking federal funding under the program.
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?
George Allen Livergood: It is generally accepted that access to the Internet by schools, homeowners, businesses, police, fire and city government increases the access to information resources providing both intangible educational and personal development as well as tangible financial benefits to businesses, consumers and others. It is a proven fact that access to the Internet increases home shopping access to more products and services where ever it is made available.
Given the difficult economic times in which we find ourselves, any opportunity to increase consumer spending and education is clearly a “benefit” that cannot easily be ignored. This, of course, also ignores the fact that the FTI proposal provides for FREE standard installation and broadband service to all schools, police, fire and government offices in the service area for perpetuity.
TMCnet: How did you find the application process? What would you recommend the U.S. government tweak in the process, if anything?
GL: The application process seems to preclude service to very small unincorporated communities that do not have a unique ZIP code or otherwise fit the template of the “community” for this grant opportunity. These communities will not likely ever be able to attract the technology investment required given their isolation from larger communities and the required investment to extend service to them based upon the classic “Homes per Mile of Plant” line extension formulas. If the intent of the grant is to provide Internet service to rural America where service has not yet reached and may never reach but for the availability of these funds, these unincorporated small rural American communities should be included.
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?
GL: Foundation Telecommunications, Inc. is a woman-owned small business that has been in continuous operation for over thirty years providing leading edge applications of telecommunications technology to solve customer problems. In 1994, the company developed and has been continuously operating a two-way high-speed Internet/Broadband/VPN network providing services to ISPs, cable television operators, telephone companies and small communities that could not otherwise access those services.
As such, FTI is perhaps the longest continuously operating provider of two-way high-speed satellite Internet services in the United States, perhaps the world. This application for funding extends this service to over one-hundred small communities of 150 homes or less that will not likely ever be able to access high-speed Internet but for the funding availability of this grant. Market pressures and customer demand will eventually serve the larger communities over time but these very small geographically isolated pockets of homes will not likely ever attract the investment in technology required to reach them were it not for the Foundation Telecommunications, Inc. proposal.
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?
GL: This funding is critical to the project of implementing the only possible sustainable service to the very small communities outlined in the proposal. Without this funding, these communities will not receive high-speed broadband services given that no other telecommunications provider will extend their plant the tens of miles required to reach such a small number of homes. Without this funding, the proposed jobs that will be added in the community and the associated states will simply not be created. If we can speak of “jobs created or saved”; we should be able to also speak of “jobs lost” due to the loss of the funding for these communities.
Michael Dinan is a group managing editor for TMCnet, overseeing TMCnet's Web editorial team and covering news in the IP communications, CRM and VoIP industries. He also oversees production of e-Newsletters in the areas of 4G wireless technology and smart products. To read more of Michael's articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Michael Dinan