Telcos to Congress: More Money Please

[qi:004] An association of small telecommunications providers, some of them rural, has taken a look at the broadband dollars in the stimulus bills making their way through both houses of Congress and said, “Please sir, can I have some more?” What’s more disturbing (although just as predictable), is they want to lower the speed requirements to 1.5 Mbps downlink.

The stimulus bill that passed Wednesday in the House offers $6 billion in grants for providing broadband (much of that in rural areas), but required speeds of 5 Mbps down and 1 up. The companion bill moving through the Senate has the same speed requirements on the low end, and offers $9 billion in grants. But The Independent Telephone and Telecommunications Alliance along with Qwest Communications tells the Wall Street Journal that the money isn’t enough and the speeds are too high, given that reaching rural areas with broadband is already expensive. Faster speeds only add to the cost.

It is expensive to reach rural areas with fat pipes, but it’s far more expensive to build out infrastructure today that will be obsolete in a few years. We shouldn’t cave on speed requirements to rural areas if we really want to offer the economic benefits of broadband access. For those seeking more money, members of President Obama’s team have indicated that the stimulus bill is only a part of his plan for universal broadband.

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