May 26, 2011
Jonathan S. Adelstein, administrator of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) ’s Rural Utilities Service, says the agency will no longer supply its borrowers with an approved shopping list of gear for telecom networks.
In a letter published earlier this week, Adelstein blamed his budget for killing the hallowed List of Materials. For a telco borrowing funds to build a network, the List was a vetting process used by smaller telcos and consulting engineers for guidance in selecting suppliers.
"It boils down to: Does the system do what the supplier says it is supposed to do?" explains Kermit Ross, principal of Millennium Marketing. "The List has been the only way for small telcos to have any assurance of that."
Why this matters
The RUS lends money to rural telcos for constructing networks, procuring equipment and modernizing old networks to run new services, like broadband. With one stroke of his red crayon, Adelstein has removed one way for the USDA to make sure that taxpayer dollars aren't squandered on faulty or dangerous equipment.
[Ed. Note: Though it has nothing at all to do with the RUS list, or this story, we can't help but recall what sometimes happens when telcos don't thoroughly check out their gear. Kaboom!]
For telecom equipment vendors, getting on the RUS List of Materials -- being "RUS accepted," as the vendors put it -- was a great thing for two reasons:
It provided vendors a chance for publicity, much like passing a certification or getting an industry award.
The RUS list narrowed the universe of companies who were competing for certain service provider dollars. If you got on the list, you only had a few fellow vendors to beat, not the entire world of potential telecom gear suppliers.
In The List's place, Adelstein writes, the RUS will "transition from a listing process to an approach which ensures that construction financed by RUS meets applicable industry standards." Whew. Well. Problem solved, then.
Further reading about the RUS and what it's been funding:
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