It didn't take long for the administration's taxpayer funded $10 billion broadband stimulus proposal to degenerate into typical bureaucratic chaos with unclear objectives and once cooperative telco's in a street fight for a piece of the big American giveaway.
While Congress is hell bent to ensure everyone in the remote corners of the country has broadband access apparently they can't decide what "unserved" and "underserved" means. Have they even studied the communications industry enough to know that there is a portion of the population in the already "served" regions of the country that don't want Internet access, multi-megabit speed or even a PC. These might be called the "intentionally unserved". In fact, some of them even claim they have no need for spam, fishing scams, Nigerian bank offers or social network predators. How dare they refuse taxpayer generosity, we're about to spend $10 billion on these ungrateful souls!
If that's not bad enough every segment of the communications industry is slugging it out for the pot of gold. Big companies want tax credits, unprofitable companies wants grants, companies in rural areas are battling against urban ones and the States think they know best how to spend the money.
Congress believes NTIA can successfully pick the winners and losers without distorting the competitive marketplace that already exist. Like there has been a lot of successful examples of that.
About the only thing industry participants can agree on is that if its divided up evenly its not enough to accomplish any single objective.
The track record of the FCC and NTIA spending federal money to subsidize communication services to schools, libraries and other constituents is abysmal.
Remember the school program where millions of dollars worth of communications equipment was purchased from one of the agency chosen vendors but was never installed for the intended user, but left rotting in a warehouse.
The record shows that federal agencies tasked with handing out public money, especially billions of dollars to a chosen few is inherently inefficient and fraught with fraud, waste and abuse.
Instead of creating meaningful lasting jobs (which is supposed to be the goal) the public money will simply enrich the pockets of the few.
If this is "changing the way Washington works" it likes amazingly like the "old Washington".
So why is the admininstration so pressed to allocate all of the near trillion dollar spend plan today, and why all at once?
According to those close to the matter it would take nearly three years to spend the money.
"The Congressional Budget Office estimated that about 60 percent of the funds would be spent from 2009 through 2011.
Even Atkinson, who said that forecast is too pessimistic, said it will take time to ramp up spending."
Look what happened to the $750 Billion TARP money. At least some in Congress had the good sense to stage the funding in two $350 Billion traunches denying Paulson's request to get all the money in one shot. The two step process was wise because it is widely recognized that the TARP I funds were spent without the management oversight, transparency and accountability now needed for TARP II.
Why not trim this bill down and focus on the portion of funds that can be spent over the next 18 months. Don't repeat the same mistake as TARP - learn from the experience!