Real Cash for Rural Grant Matching (U.S.)
Congress requires recipients of the broadband stimulus and most rural grant programs to pay a percentage of the cost, providing an incentive to keep costs down. In practice, instead of cash most recipients claim credit for “donations in kind,” such as the space in the library used for a community computer center. Telcos often “contribute” fiber or routers they already own, built or bought for other purposes. That makes a mockery of the original intent, of course.
Ken Kochno at the Rural Utilities service has just changed the game. “The new rule maintains the current program’s 15 percent matching requirement but clarifies that the match must be in cash and can also be used to fund operations of the project. http://1.usa.gov/Y2dDtX”
On the other hand, the new rules don’t require disclosure of what the money is being spent on with specifics. RUS should follow the example of NTIA, putting on the web detailed reports on how the public money is being spent. Public disclosure makes it harder to spend $20,000 on a router for a small library with a single terminal. That actually happened on a project in West Virginia. Sunshine is good.