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MTA letter criticizes rural broadband stimulus funding decisions

The Montana Telecommunication Association today sent a letter to the heads of the NTIA and the RUS, saying that the agencies’ stimulus funding for rural broadband is wasteful, bad for consumers and a threat to local telecommunications companies.

The letter, addressed to NTIA Assistant Secretary Larry Strickling and RUS Administrator Jonathan Adelstein, says that many of the rural broadband projects the two agencies have funded duplicate existing service rather than bring broadband to new areas.

“We urge you to rededicate the remaining funds at your disposal to building broadband facilities where they are most needed: unserved areas,” writes Geoffrey Feiss, general manager of MTA.

“We urge you to deny applications pending before your agencies that would waste taxpayer funds by duplicating facilities in ‘underserved’ areas,” Feiss goes on to say.

The letter goes on to detail some of the concerns MTA has over the effects of stimulus-funded broadband on consumers. In summary, Feiss and the MTA are concerned that government subsidized operations in areas where companies already provide service will make it hard or even impossible for existing business to keep their doors open. You can read the full letter below, thanks to Scribd.

MTA letter to federal broadband stimulus funding agencies

Feiss was one of the people who commented in my “Money well spent?” story about the criticism of Montana Opticom’s $64 million stimulus award. That award was part of the motivation for the letter to NTIA and RUS, Feiss said.

I talked to Feiss this afternoon, and he said he doesn’t expect much in the way of response from the feds. MTA has sent similar letters in the past, he said, to little effect.

“I just wanted to make sure that NTIA and RUS both know that we’re watching and that they can cause a lot of harm,” he said.