Saturday, April 30, 2011

Big telecoms complain that stimulus money is creating competition for broadband providers

The National Cable and Telecommunications Association, a lobby for companies that provide TV, phone and Internet service, released a study this week to show that federal economic-stimulus money has been "used to duplicate services that already exist" in Kansas, Minnesota and Montana, Jonathan Ellis reports for USA Today.

"The study focuses on three projects worth $231.7 million in grants and loans from [the] Rural Utilities Service," Ellis writes. "It concludes that more than 85 percent of households in those project areas already have access to some form of broadband service, whether through cable broadband, DSL or fixed wireless broadband providers."

RUS Administrator Jonathan Adelstein said the projects were needed to promote economic development in the three areas. The law allows RUS "to fund projects as long as 75 percent of the area lacks sufficient access to high-speed broadband to support rural economic development," partly to encourage young people to stay in rural areas, Ellis notes.

For example, Kansas' Rural Telephone Service "received more than $100 million in grants and loans to bring broadband to unserved communities in northwestern Kansas," Ellis reports. "The company used some of the money to expand in Hays, which already had service providers. By establishing a presence in Hays, [CEO Larry] Sevier says, the company had access to a customer pool that will enable it to pay back its loans and reach communities without service." (Read more)

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