Free Press Releases Broadband Stimulus Grant Scorecard

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Jen Howard, Free Press, (202) 265-1490 x22 or (703) 517-6273

Free Press Releases Broadband Stimulus Grant Scorecard

WASHINGTON - In a roundtable discussion on broadband stimulus at the National
Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) today, Free
Press Research Director S. Derek Turner outlined the
five criteria policymakers should use to score potential broadband
deployment projects: adoption and affordability, speed, civics, job
creation and efficiency.

A live webcast of the roundtable is available at: http://www.ntia.doc.gov/broadbandgrants/video.html

The roundtable, which begins today at 1 p.m., is part of a series of
public discussions on how to allocate the $7.2 billion apportioned for
broadband in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, signed into
law by President Barack Obama in February.

Prepared testimony of S. Derek Turner, research director of Free Press:

I appreciate the opportunity to speak today on the topic that is
perhaps the most critical and most challenging. The hardworking folks
at NTIA and the Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service
(RUS) have the unenviable task of picking winners and losers out of
what promises to be a large pool of applicants.

The challenge for these agencies is to turn Congress' broad
legislative language into an objective and defensible system for
prioritizing applications. We have tried to do just that, with a
broadband stimulus grant scorecard that rates potential deployment
projects based on the following five criteria:

  • Adoption and affordability: We award up to 25 points for factors such as price, competition, openness and other potential consumer benefits.
  • Speed: A project can receive up to 25
    points based on actual -- not advertised -- upstream and downstream
    speeds, and how shared and potentially oversubscribed a network will be.
  • Civics: We award up to 20 points for
    community benefits like broadband education and training, public
    safety, free public Wi-Fi and tele-health -- with special consideration
    given to whether an applicant is a socially disadvantaged business.
  • Job creation: We award up to 15
    points based on the number of jobs directly created industry-wide by
    the project, with performance measured against economic criteria.
  • Efficiency: A project can receive up
    to 15 points based on the long-term feasibility of the business and the
    network's scalability. In this category, we also consider whether the
    network owner will forgo any claim to future ongoing universal service
    support, as we are very concerned about the potential for ratepayers
    having to subsidize networks paid for by taxpayers.

A detailed explanation of our scorecard is available at http://www.freepress.net/files/Scoring Criteria for BTOP Grants.pdf

I'd like to briefly mention a few things that are not in our scoring system, and explain why they've been excluded.

First, we don't give any weight to the customers-served-per-dollar
ratio, because giving that weight could actually favor projects that
would likely have occurred without stimulus support. Instead we suggest
NTIA contract with engineering firms to evaluate the reasonableness of
each application from a cost perspective.

Second, we don't give preference to larger projects. We believe
projects of all sizes deserve funding, which is why we suggest that
NTIA and RUS develop several strata of projects by award size, and make
a number of small, medium and large awards.

Finally, we make no distinction between unserved and underserved for
weighting purposes. We feel that once an area is certified as meeting
either definition, then they should have equal status to compete for
Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grants.

Free Press' broadband stimulus grant scorecard: http://www.freepress.net/files/Scoring Criteria for BTOP Grants.pdf

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Free Press is a national, nonpartisan organization working to reform the media. Through education, organizing and advocacy, we promote diverse and independent media ownership, strong public media, and universal access to communications. Learn more at www.freepress.net

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