Stimulus Hopefuls in SE Minnesota

The Rochester Post-Bulletin wrote yesterday about three entities in Southeastern Minnesota that have expressed an interest in pursuing funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Hiawatha Broadband Communications (HBC), Goodhue County and the Southeast Minnesota Network, a consortium of nine area school districts are pursuing funding.

The funding entities (NTIA and RUS) are still working out the details and criteria for funding projects. In the article HBC CEO Gary Evans points out that one of the big issues with the criteria will be the definition of broadband. “Evans predicts there will be a “tremendous battle” waged around the question of what is broadband. Incumbent Internet providers, hoping to protect their turf, are likely to push for a loose definition, arguing that whatever it is they are providing is sufficient.”

BroadbandCensus tackled the same topic at the end of last week while recapping some of the NTIA/RUS roundtable discussions they have been having about the stimulus funding and creating opportunities for funding projects.

No definitions have been set yet – but the suggestion has been made by some that hard fast numbers are required. Without finite numbers, the claim is that we won’t be able to measure of manage success of projects. This is an interesting perspective. I’ve seen the Minnesota Task Force begin to discuss this topic – should they use a number to define broadband? Should they come up with a tiered definition? Should they tie the definition to broadband applications? Should they wait to see what the Feds come up with?

Some folks say nothing short of fiber will do. Some folks say only wireless will be affordable. Some folks feel like any improvement in some areas will be good; while others say let those unserved (and underserved) use the stimulus money to leapfrog into the future.

The devil is in the detail – but has Gary points out, the details are going to start with the definitions of broadband, unserved and underserved.

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