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letter of credit
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A massive coalition of more than 300 broadband policy experts and organizations have written a letter to the U.S. government, warning that smaller broadband providers, nonprofits, and municipalities will be elbowed out of an historic $42.45 billion broadband grant program without some notable changes to program rules.
At the heart of their concerns sits the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program, made possible by the recently passed infrastructure bill, and administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The grant program is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to put a significant dent in America’s longstanding digital divide.
But BEAD program rules currently require grant recipients to obtain a letter of credit (LOC) from a bank, collateralized by cash or cash-equivalent. They also require grant winners to provide "matching funds of not less than 25 percent of project costs," though the latter restriction can be waived in some high deployment cost areas.
While the restrictions were intended to reduce the risk of project failure (a touchy subject for the government in the wake of problems with the FCC’s RDOF program), they require grant recipients to lock away vast and untouchable sums of capital for the duration of any broadband build, most of which last several years.
Doubling the Number of Municipal Networks in the Next Five Years - Episode 563 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast
May 2022 witnessed something remarkable: the birth of a new nonprofit advocacy organization whose sole purpose was to speak up for the hundreds of communities that have built municipal broadband networks, and the thousands more that want to but don't know where to start. Now, the American Association for Public Broadband has named as its Executive Director as Gigi Sohn, former Biden nominee to the Federal Communications Commission. And she's ready to get to work.
Gigi joins Christopher on the podcast this week to talk about standing up support systems to promote and defend community-driven models to double the number of municipal systems in the next five years - including providing resources and countering dark-money astroturf campaigns - while also making sure the Internet stays as open and equitable as possible, and not squandering the promise of BEAD.
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Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.