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Regulatory Commissioners Prepare To Talk Broadband

The economic stimulus package, whose broadband funding just got cut as part of the general Republican-driven paring back of spending, will be one of the top items on the agenda of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) when they meet in Washington next week. Also on the program are FCC reforms and universal service.

NARUC represents state public service commissioners who regulate essential utility services including telecommunications.

Among those scheduled to weigh in on the economic stimulus package are Blair Levin, managing partner with Stifel Nicolaus and a member of the Obama transition team who was on a short list of possible FCC chair candidates. Also discussing broadband's role in stimulating the economy will be Tom Tauke, VP, public affairs, policy and communications for Verizon.

NARUC (made up of state regulators) has argued that the states are in the best position to hand out the broadband stimulus money, arguing in a letter, for example, that the National Telecommuniations & Information Administration, which is charged with overseeing the disbursements, could have its hands full with the DTV transition.

"The task of efficient and timely distribution of broadband stimulus funds is a daunting prospect for
the federal agencies referenced in the House legislation," the group argued in a letter to Congress two weeks ago. "Both face critical staffing changes in the next few months. Indeed, the Digital Television convertor box coupon program is currently an all-consuming focus for National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA). If the DTV deadline is extended, that will significantly limit that agency’s resources during what presumably would be the most critical period for handling disbursements. This is not a prescription for either speed or efficiency."