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It is not often that I see such delightful news. The public interest is protected in California even as it is abused in Washington DC.

Ever since the NTIA mapping program became a topic of discussion on my mail list and Sara Wedeman saw and critiqued the work of Rachelle Cong and her project manager Ann Neville, the question of the way in which NTIA would use some hundreds of millions of dollars of stimulus money to ascertain where service was and where it wasn’t became a major subject of discussion. Sara took a look at what Chong had done in California and reacted with extreme dismay. Several prominent members asked Sara how she would do it. When they saw how Sara would approach it they encouraged her to reach out and offer consulting support which sara did and which unfortunately ended very unhappily. Meanwhile I did an interview with Sara on her methodology which I summarized here. It is discussed here. This link will give you the complete interview in PDF form.

Sara submitted comments to NTIA published here and here. And the explanatory slide deck. And here.

Esme Vos was impressed by Sara’s approach, commenting that “an interesting interview that explains why mapping is important and how it should be done to ensure the final product is useful for policy… offering keen insights into why universal broadband availability is so important.”.

By the end of June Lawrence Strickling had assumed the lead at NTIA, from whence the BTOP grant program is being run. He had also brought in Ann Neville, Rachelle Chong’s mapping project manager, to direct the NTIA’s mapping program. One of the results of that we have seen written up or commented on by Art Brodsky in no less than 14 articles which are all linked to and summarized here. Millions of dollars are going to Connected Nation under the supervision of Mr Strickling and Ms Neville. This despite a very widespread opinion in the public interest community that Connected Nation has been put together by interests loyal to the incumbents and is serving their interests by producing maps that say , in effect, “this area has broadband because ATT says it does”. Oh? Where? Precisely under what terms? “Oh sorry we can tell you that. It is carrier confidential. Thank you for giving us the money borrowed from future generations of tax payers while we give those taxpayers nothing useful in return.”

The Delightful News

PUC member’s bid for second term rejected
Telephony Online
By Michael Rothfeld

The leader of the state Senate on Tuesday [December 8, 2009] rejected a controversial appointee of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger who had been bidding for a second term on the commission that regulates state utilities.

Aides to Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) informed the governor’s office that he would not hold a hearing to confirm Rachelle Chong. Chong, who has been severely criticized by consumer groups, was first appointed in 2006 and had been seeking a term that would have lasted through 2014.

The decision means she will have to leave the commission at the end of the year.

Chong, who functioned informally as the Public Utilities Commission’s main telecommunications regulator, had received support from the state’s two largest phone companies, AT&T and Verizon, which benefited from her successful push to deregulate most land-line services.

They lobbied for her confirmation, and AT&T solicited support letters from nonprofit groups and government organizations, some of which had received funding from the company. Both phone companies also donated to a nonprofit group affiliated with Steinberg.

COOK’s Edge: Chong and Ann Neville’s California mapping study found that ATT and Verizon had done a fine job of bringing broadband to 95% of the population. Darrell Steinberg disagreed and listened to his continuents. Thank goodness his actions ended Ms. Chong’s service to the incumbents.

On the other hand, I am sure Mr. Strickling would have no problem in explaining why he defended the choice of Ms. Neville rather adopting Sara’s approach. In my opinion his explanation would likely be analogous to another homily in why Wall Street counts and Main Street does not. At least in denying Ms. Chong another five years service to the incumbents rather than the people California told Washington that the interests of ordinary citizens come before those of 100 billion dollar a year mega corporations.

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