July 3, 2009    /    by

Stimulus Will Test Governments and Governance

The race has begun. Across America, state and local governments, private sector infrastructure providers, libraries, universities, non-profit groups, school districts and more are all ...

The race has begun. Across America, state and local governments, private sector infrastructure providers, libraries, universities, non-profit groups, school districts and more are all scrambling to forge new coalitions, attend broadband summits, arrange meetings, dial into web conference calls and basically do whatever it takes to gain an edge in the broadband stimulus scramble for dollars. We are all sweating now that the submission countdown has begun.

 There are no shortage of articles on this subject. Starting with yesterday's Washington Post, we read Government Makes $4 Billion 'Down Payment' on Project to Expand Broadband. "Vice President Biden yesterday announced guidelines for $4 billion in stimulus funds to expand high-speed Internet access across the nation, jump-starting a program that has been criticized for taking too long to get off the ground.... The Commerce and Agriculture departments said yesterday that they will accept applications from private firms, nonprofit groups, and state and local governments for the first allotment of $4 billion from July 14 through Aug. 14."

Government Technology ran this article earlier this week: Broadband Stimulus Fund Requirements Released by Feds. Indeed, the pages of just about every government magazine describe some different aspect of the stimulus dollars that are coming to a town near you.

Just google "broadband stimulus," and you'll get almost seven million page views.

What I find fascinating, as we watch this new frenzy unfold, are the new coalitions, partnerships and cross-boundary deals being formed, and not being formed, before our eyes. A fundamental question that will soon be answered is this: what new, lasting governance structures will emerge to enable more effective use of these broadband dollars? I suspect the answers will be different in every state. Many states may have multiple answers. This is an exciting time that I am confident will be written about for many years to come.

Take good notes. There is no doubt that there will be winners and losers and whiners. The lack of government dollars due to the economic recession has caused some very unique situations to unfold, and everyone is hungry for local winners. Like the beginning of the season for your favorite sports team, everyone is getting in shape and anxiously hoping for success.

 The decisions made now are not only vital, they are the seeds of the future for governments working with together other governments and with the private sector on infrastructure. Beyond broadband networks, similar governance issues will also surface regarding health IT and other stimulus programs.

 We are all being tested. We've know this was coming for a while. Some of us will do well, and some not so well. The stakes are huge. One thing is for sure, a large part of our success will depend upon the best cross-boundary teams coming together with the best plans that have maximum benefit and deliver real results. Governance, before and after grant awards, will be key. Let the grant writing begin.

What's your view on governance for stimulus and this entire grant and loan process?