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US Seeks Volunteers To Review Broadband Grant Applications

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the low-expertise-worries-me-less-than-poor-incentives dept.

Networking 123

BobB-nw writes with this excerpt from Network World: "The US National Telecommunications and Information Administration, scheduled to distribute $4.7 billion in broadband deployment grants over the next 15 months, will count on volunteers to review grant applications. The NTIA, in a document released this week, asks for people to apply to become volunteer reviewers of the broadband grants. The NTIA's broadband grant program is part of $7.2 billion that the US Congress approved for broadband in a huge economic stimulus package approved earlier this year. ... It's 'a little scary' that volunteers will have the power to accept and reject broadband applications, said Craig Settles, an analyst and president of consulting firm Successful.com. Volunteers may have limited expertise, or they may have biases that aren't evident to the NTIA, he said."

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Self-Serving Opportunity, yay! (1)

sonnejw0 (1114901) | more than 5 years ago | (#28641489)

I'm going to become a volunteer grant reviewer, and then only approve grants that promise to bring me free DOCSIS 3.0 to my house ... and WiMax while I'm at it.

Re:Self-Serving Opportunity, yay! (2, Insightful)

rtfa-troll (1340807) | more than 5 years ago | (#28642285)

It's this level of innocent happiness that makes Slashdotters such suitable people for this job. He'll be the only person who actually demands a technical installation (they companies selected will be horrified by the idea of having to actually build enough of a network to supply one location with broadband) at the same time, when he realises all he got was free WiMax and everyone else on his committee got at least a Hawaiian island, if not a cruise liner to go with it, he would probably freak out and grass them all up. Go for it sonny; you'll be the best.

Re:Self-Serving Opportunity, yay! (1)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | more than 5 years ago | (#28645291)

If we're honest, 99% of application reviews will read:

Grant refused until "Barry" Hussein Soetoro releases his long-form birth certificate!!!!!one!

taking over government argghhghggh (spattered with flecks of foam.)

Democracy can be a little scary... (2, Insightful)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#28641501)

If you are one the people behind the scenes in power. But I think elitist statements like this tend to be against the truth. The fact is, most people who are concerned enough about these issues to look at them are, actually, educated about them.

Re:Democracy can be a little scary... (3, Interesting)

characterZer0 (138196) | more than 5 years ago | (#28641589)

You really think that educated volunteers are going to outnumber paid plants?

Re:Democracy can be a little scary... (4, Informative)

Joe Snipe (224958) | more than 5 years ago | (#28641741)

At least the ratio of honest criticism to paid shill will be lower than the current system.

Re:Democracy can be a little scary... (1)

ThousandStars (556222) | more than 5 years ago | (#28643181)

At least the ratio of honest criticism to paid shill will be lower than the current system.

Do you have any evidence to support that claim? I ask because although there are plenty of problems with the current processes federal agencies use to review proposal submissions, corruption is seldom one. Most agencies use either staffers, who have little incentive towards the kinds of corruption you imply are rampant, or peer reviewers, who often have to be wrangled into the work.

In any event, if you actually display some knowledge about how the current system of funding distribution works, I would love to read it. If not, you might find reading my blog, Grant Writing Confidential [seliger.com] , of interest.

Re:Democracy can be a little scary... (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 5 years ago | (#28643307)

my blog, Grant Writing Confidential

I'm not sure these are those kind of grants.

Re:Democracy can be a little scary... (2, Interesting)

cellurl (906920) | more than 5 years ago | (#28641891)

I just applied, did you?

Re:Democracy can be a little scary... (1)

wdavies (163941) | more than 5 years ago | (#28642751)

I thought about it - they are quite specific about who they want to review the applications - I'm probably on the margin, having mostly worked in text search related internet stuff. If I thought I had more relevant experience (eg networked game design) I would have gladly offered to review.

"To be considered as a reviewer you must have significant expertise and experience in at least one of the following areas:
1) the design, funding, construction, and operation of broadband networks or public computer centers; 2) broadband-related outreach, training, or education; and 3) innovative programs to increase the demand for broadband services. In addition you must agree to comply with Department of Commerce policies on conflict of interest and confidentiality."

Re:Democracy can be a little scary... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28642977)

Uhh...you have none of the skills they are looking for, but you are on the "margin"? Even if you were a networked game designer, how does that give you public broadband network experience?

Re:Democracy can be a little scary... (2, Funny)

cellurl (906920) | more than 5 years ago | (#28642981)

I just wanted to flood their inbox.
I applied with feds to help with the DTV switch last month as well.
'Didn't even get a phone call...

Re:Democracy can be a little scary... (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 5 years ago | (#28643379)

"To be considered as a reviewer you must have significant expertise and experience in at least one of the following areas:
1) the design, funding, construction, and operation of broadband networks or public computer centers; 2) broadband-related outreach, training, or education; and 3) innovative programs to increase the demand for broadband services. In addition you must agree to comply with Department of Commerce policies on conflict of interest and confidentiality."

We learned a few days ago that the health insurance industry spends $1.4 million dollars per day to lobby government. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that telcos spend a similarly stunning amount. How much pull do you think a volunteer reviewer with "networked game design" experience is going to have to sway anything one way or the other?

Good luck though to any slashdot readers who apply to review applications. I admire civic volunteerism -- on the off-chance that something that has the public's good in mind will slip through the cracks.

Re:Democracy can be a little scary... (1)

GaryOlson (737642) | more than 5 years ago | (#28644733)

NTIA is accepting applications for its first round of BTOP grants from July 14, 2009 until August 14, 2009

Thank you for your interest in applying. Since you failed to read, understand, and follow basic directions, we are informing you that you are not qualified to serve on a panel.

Director NTIA

Re:Democracy can be a little scary... (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 5 years ago | (#28643729)

You really think that educated volunteers are going to outnumber paid plants?

I think that the actual announcement sets out the same kind of rules that would be applied to paid employees or contractors doing this kind of work, both as regards qualifications and conflict rules, so I don't see how having volunteers makes it any worse than any other possible way of doing first line review (note, also, that contrary to the complaints of the broadband consulting-firm president quoted in TFA that seems upset that firm's like his aren't getting business from the government, the reviewers don't have the power to approve or reject applications.)

Re:Democracy can be a little scary... (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 5 years ago | (#28642315)

The fact is, most people who are concerned enough about these issues to look at them are, actually, educated about them.

When you are on the wrong end of a jury... Just remember these are the people too stupid to find an excuse to get out of it.

Re:Democracy can be a little scary... (1)

scubamage (727538) | more than 5 years ago | (#28644091)

You ask to be a reviewer. You don't ask for jury duty. There is a big difference between volunteering and civic duty.

jury duty (2, Insightful)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 5 years ago | (#28644995)

The fact is, most people who are concerned enough about these issues to look at them are, actually, educated about them.

When you are on the wrong end of a jury... Just remember these are the people too stupid to find an excuse to get out of it.

I was summoned to show up for jury duty twice. Both tymes I was hoping to be picked to serve on a jury preferably involving drugs, but wasn't even questioned either tyme. Why would I want to serve on a jury? Because it's one of the most important duties of a citizen, as well as a privilege many don' get. Why a drug trial? So I can let politicians know victim-less crimes should never have been made crimes to begin with.

Those who want to weasel out of jury duty, or never vote, do not deserve to complain when politicians do something they don't like. I'm sure China or Cuba may want to take them.

Falcon

Re:jury duty (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#28645217)

So I can let politicians know victim-less crimes should never have been made crimes to begin wit

Seen enough families having to put up with that one guy whose stoned all the time, stealing money for dope, to say that drugs are not a victimless crime.

But, I agree with you about jury nullification as a fundamental right.

Re:jury duty (2, Insightful)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 5 years ago | (#28645697)

Seen enough families having to put up with that one guy whose stoned all the time, stealing money for dope, to say that drugs are not a victimless crime.

Stealing is the crime that causes victims, drugs use is not. And drug prices are high because of the fake War on Drugs, which is really a war on liberty. If drugs were legal then most of the profit would be out of drugs reducing drug related violence as well, with a lot of it being between gangs trying to control the distribution of the drugs.

With the laws politicians and drug warriors have been pushing of decades, they'd imprison many of the USA's Founding Fathers as well. Hemp aka marijuana was grown on the farms owned by, or was advocated by, the first three presidents of the USA, George Washington [hempmuseum.org] , John Adams [globalhemp.com] , and Thomas Jefferson [naihc.org] , Jefferson wrote the "Declaration of Independence" on hemp paper. Benjamin Franklin [lakotafriends.org] owned a mill that made hemp paper.

Hemp was never made illegal because it was dangerous or bad, but for other reasons. Hemp or marijuana was called the devil weed from Mexico [wordpress.com] , when it was not from there, to stroke racist fears and fear of violence. However there is not one medical or scientific study that has shown it to cause violence or drive user to become violent, at least I have not found any that have not been discredited and I dare anyone to find one. Most studies conclude the opposite. So why was it made illegal? Because wealthy and powerful industrialists thought hemp was a threat to them.

Re:jury duty (1)

Omestes (471991) | more than 5 years ago | (#28646005)

But, I agree with you about jury nullification as a fundamental right.

This may be, but you still shouldn't be allowed in a jury if your mind is already made up on your verdict, or you are unwilling to listen to the facts of this individual case. A jury verdict shouldn't be about your single opinion on an issue.

Re:jury duty (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 5 years ago | (#28646163)

This may be, but you still shouldn't be allowed in a jury if your mind is already made up on your verdict, or you are unwilling to listen to the facts of this individual case. A jury verdict shouldn't be about your single opinion on an issue.

Wrong, juries are a check on an overbearing government.

Here are a couple of quotes from some Founding Fathers of the USA:
Thomas Jefferson: [blogspot.com]
"I consider trial by jury as the only anchor yet imagined by man by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution."
First Chief Justice John Jay [indymedia.org] :
"'You have a right to take upon yourselves to judge [both the facts and law]"

There are more quotes [google.com] .

Falcon

Re:jury duty (1)

Omestes (471991) | more than 5 years ago | (#28646255)

As stated, I'm not disagreeing, jury nullification is important and should be protected.

But in the case of someone who automatically hears the word "drug" and decides to nullify, this is just dumb. As a prosecutor I wouldn't allow in the jury (rightly so, too). Also this person basically wants to completely disregard the facts in the case because of pre-existing bias, which makes them ill suited to be a juror.

Now if the parent decided to nullify AFTER the facts were presented, and in the course of the presentation decided that the law was aggrevious and unconstitutional, then this should be in their right if they can convince their peers likewise.

I hated reading proposals as a government employee (1)

RawJoe (712281) | more than 5 years ago | (#28641503)

I'm afraid all the government speak will scare off the everyday joe

Let me be the first to say (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28641511)

Not it.

Many eyes... (3, Funny)

TropicalCoder (898500) | more than 5 years ago | (#28641523)

Post each application on Slashdot and we'll all vote on it.

Re:Many eyes... (2, Funny)

iamhigh (1252742) | more than 5 years ago | (#28641609)

What in a poll... on /.? Every application (and probably two or three times) will be decided by what option has Cowboy Neal associated with it!!!

Re:Many eyes... (2, Funny)

oneirophrenos (1500619) | more than 5 years ago | (#28641611)

Post each application on Slashdot and we'll all vote on it.

That would probably lead to CowboyNeal getting all the money...

Re:Many eyes... (2, Funny)

KevinKnSC (744603) | more than 5 years ago | (#28641953)

Or at least some wicked-fast broadband.

Re:Many eyes... (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 5 years ago | (#28641631)

Don't be insane! They can't have technically minded, well informed people making decisions! If this goes through, whose going to pay the lawyer's and lobbyist's welfare, that's what I want to know.

Re:Many eyes... (2, Funny)

Minwee (522556) | more than 5 years ago | (#28641691)

Don't be insane! They can't have technically minded, well informed people making decisions!

Okay, have it your way. We'll post the applications on Digg instead.

Re:Many eyes... (1)

dykmoby (830547) | more than 5 years ago | (#28642269)

Don't be insane! They can't have technically minded, well informed people making decisions!

Okay, have it your way. We'll post the applications on Digg instead.

As long as it ain't YouTube...

Re:Many eyes... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28641973)

They can't have technically minded, well informed people making decisions!

So that's why the applications are going to be posted to Slashdot instead?

Re:Many eyes... (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 5 years ago | (#28642565)

Don't be insane! They can't have technically minded, well informed people making decisions!

o_0 What slashdot are YOU reading, and can I have the URL, please?

Re:Many eyes... (1)

Freetardo Jones (1574733) | more than 5 years ago | (#28642715)

I think they've been reading the Japanese Slashdot.

Re:Many eyes... (1)

Iceykitsune (1059892) | more than 5 years ago | (#28643045)

idle.slashdot.org

Biases (1)

iamhigh (1252742) | more than 5 years ago | (#28641535)

they may have biases

Yeah, because there is never any biased decisions made by government agencies!!

Re:Biases (4, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 5 years ago | (#28641601)

There are levels of bias. If you want people to wallow through pages and pages of grant applications for free, the only people who will volunteer will be the ones that have a vested interest in making sure certain applications are accepted or rejected. There are only three types of people who I can think of that would be interested in doing this:

1.) Industry insiders who want to make sure their grants are accepted or their competitors' are rejected.
2.) Crusaders trying to bend the process to whatever their particular ideology is.
3.) Unemployable losers with nothing better to do.

I can't see how letting any of these groups participate would result in good results. We're talking about billions of dollars here...surely the government could toss in a couple hundred thousand to pay people to do the job.

Re:Biases (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#28641619)

Anytime you have knowledge you have bias. That is the nature of humans. No one can be very knowledgeable about a topic yet not have a bias.

Re:Biases (2)

eln (21727) | more than 5 years ago | (#28641655)

Sure, but when people aren't being paid for the job, their only motivation to do the job is to make sure it gets tilted toward their bias. A guy in the article also brings up a pretty good point that it's silly for the government to ask people to work for free to distribute money that's designed in part to create paying jobs.

Re:Biases (1)

Artifakt (700173) | more than 5 years ago | (#28643023)

The point is, there is no one who meets the basic definitions of human or informed without there being bias. Arguing about how not being paid creates a particular bias, as you are doing, is meaningless. The person who is paying out for the service also has biases. Paying someone may give the recipient a reason to do the job besides tilting the situation towards their own bias, but it also gives them a reason to tilt the situation towards the payer's bias. You're promogulating a myth, that the powerful interests who would pay for the job themselves don't have their own bias to substitute as part of the pay process. Whether this money comes from the government or the industry, the fact that it comes from and is controlled by humans ensures biases will enter into it.

      I'm not sure if you are arguing from a 'our capitalist masters are more objective than we can be' perspective, or claiming the 'dedicated servants of society' lose their biases when they are elected, but neither is at all true.

      Money for this makes sense, but it won't do a damned thing one way or another to eliminate any biases. It may shuffle them around a bit, that's all.

Re:Biases (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28644847)

Whoosh!!!

If the government is paying then they will tilt the bias to what the government wants. Being that the point of the project is to get what the government wants(good broadband access for everyone) and NOT just what the grant applications want (money for their pet project).

when people aren't being paid for the job (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 5 years ago | (#28645919)

their only motivation to do the job is to make sure it gets tilted toward their bias.

Which may mean getting hired by one of the companies if they aren't already working for one.

Falcon

Re:Biases (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28646373)

No, actually this is perfect democracy.
.
If you want to fix the government get off your ass and contribute. If you think some lazy git who works for the government reading this stuff for a living gives a damn, I got news for you: they dont. Matter of fact they dont even understand what their job is for the most part.
.
Journalists, bloggers and especially optimists who trust the government should spend some time working for the government before they say anything about it. See the $18m website story (recovery.gov) that got pushed out in a no-bid, no-requirements fashion.

Re:Biases (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28641701)

Modded down -1000

Re:Biases (3, Informative)

anthony.vo (1581427) | more than 5 years ago | (#28641723)

We're talking about billions of dollars here...surely the government could toss in a couple hundred thousand to pay people to do the job.

It's not like as if they haven't done this before :-/ The $200 Billion Broadband Scandal [tispa.org]

Re:Biases (1)

iamhigh (1252742) | more than 5 years ago | (#28641729)

2.) Crusaders trying to bend the process to whatever their particular ideology is.

What other type of person is there? Can anyone review this and submit a decision without taking one's ideology into account? What would be the purpose of a review if you don't want someone to judge that application? But I agree that for this amount of money a paid staff to review the apps seems prudent.

Re:Biases (2, Interesting)

BigPeen (1357715) | more than 5 years ago | (#28641909)

Sounds exactly like every PAID gov't employee!

Re:Biases (2, Interesting)

DJLuc1d (1010987) | more than 5 years ago | (#28642777)

This is what they should have been doing years ago. If the government is going to spend my money, I would rather have average Joe deciding who gets it than people who are paid by this corporation or that one. Granted there is the chance of shills, at least this way there is hope for an honest person influencing decision.

Re:Biases (2, Interesting)

weiserfireman (917228) | more than 5 years ago | (#28643359)

The Federal Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program uses volunteer grant reviewersOf course, the program was designed by the fire service. Reviewers are pulled from fire departments across the country. Volunteers are not allowed to review applications from their part of the country.Very view criticisms of the program are critical of the grant reviewers. In fact, it is considered to be a program that is very good at getting money to where it is most needed with little overhead.Many people trying to improve te quality of their own apps, volunteer specifically to get exposed to more applications so that they get a better understanding of what makes a good application and what is a poor application.I am not going to be critical of the idea of using volunteer grant reviewers, for this program, until I have more information about what kind of qualificaitons they have for reviewers and safeguards against people gaming the system that have been put in place. Note: I have applied for and won over $1,000,000 in grants for my community through the AFG process

Re:Biases (1)

theverylastperson (1208224) | more than 5 years ago | (#28643789)

Okay, I guess that makes me a crusader. I'm interested in volunteering and yes, my ideology plays a part in it. I believe if you want to live in a better world then you get up every day and you work for it. You take actions to make it a better world. Maybe you have a problem with people who feel like this, because you said you can't see how any of those groups end up with good results. Well my friend, I'm a proud member of group number two and I would like to know exactly what problem you have with the way I live my life.

Do you know how I get paid? By seeing the world around me get better. If people in this country want to live in a better place, then my advice is to quit bitching about it and get to work, or at least stand out of the way for those of us who aren't wallowing in self pity.

Re:Biases (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 5 years ago | (#28643813)

We're talking about billions of dollars here...surely the government could toss in a couple hundred thousand to pay people to do the job.

A couple hundred thousand wouldn't hire enough people at any meaningful pay for the kind of qualifications you are looking for; at any rate, sure, they could hire either government employees or contracted consultants, and the exact same biases you suggest for volunteers would exist. Either (a) they would be hiring short term government employees for the job, who would either (1) lack any relevant experience, or (2) be coming from and hoping to return to the broadband industry, or (b) they would be hiring private consultants in the broadband field who have existing clients in the industry with direct interests.

Of course, they would seek to mitigate these problems with minimum qualification requirements and conflict of interest rules -- but they are applying the same kind of requirements to the volunteers, so that's no difference.

The only difference between the paid and volunteer cases is how much money you divert from the actual services to the people reviewing the applications.

Re:Biases (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 5 years ago | (#28644671)

There are only three types of people who I can think of that would be interested in doing this:

1.) Industry insiders who want to make sure their grants are accepted or their competitors' are rejected.
2.) Crusaders trying to bend the process to whatever their particular ideology is.
3.) Unemployable losers with nothing better to do.

...surely the government could toss in a couple hundred thousand to pay people to do the job.

On the other hand, I'm tempted to question how much it improves your situation to pay people to do the job. Mightn't you end up with the same group of people whether you pay or not-- well, ok, if you're paying then you might argue that the unemployed losers cease to be unemployed.

And there's the other side of the argument, which is that if people are working on something because they have an interest, they might do a better job than someone just doing it for a paycheck. Use someone with an interest, they might follow their own bias, but use someone without an interest, and their only bias is "whatever gets me a paycheck". This is the sort of angle people sometimes use to argue the value of volunteer contribution to open source.

Anyway, I think the important thing is often not who does the work, but what review process it goes through to make sure the work is done well.

Re:Biases (2, Interesting)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 5 years ago | (#28643069)

I'll be happy to admit right up front that I'm biased. I read about people in L.A. New York and Chicago enjoying unbelievable speeds, both wired and unwired. College kids have it all, the fastest speeds in the world again, both wired and unwired.

Jethro Beaudien and I suffer with less than a single MB of bandwidth - often shared between us. I thought the whole idea was to expand internet service. So, I'm going to approve any project that brings real broadband to rural America, and disapprove of ultra-modern projects in the cities. Suburbia gets consideration, as not all suburbs have what is available in the cities and the "greater metropolitan" areas. But, RURAL should have first consideration.

Does anyone actually KNOW how much of America has only dial-up available? Improve things out there with government money. The corporations are already smothering the cities and other profitable areas.

Re:Biases (1)

ewieling (90662) | more than 5 years ago | (#28643793)

Does anyone actually KNOW how much of America has only dial-up available?

In all fairness HughesNet (and other satellite providers) is available in most of the USA. Any place with Verizon Wireless phone service also has EVDO Rev B service. I don't know how much of Sprint or AT&T networks have EDGE or EVDO. I understand this is not what most people would call "broadband". I sure love my cablemodem, but when I lived in a rural area (Verizon was the only cell provider with service, 13 miles from the telco office, no cable service within at least that distance) I loved my Verizon Wireless "broadband access". 150Kbps or so download speeds were common.

Re:Biases (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 5 years ago | (#28644759)

The corporations are already smothering the cities and other profitable areas.

Unfortunately, they're not exactly "smothering" us. I live in NYC, and the fastest upload rate I can get is 512kbps, unless I want to pay to have a T1 run to my apartment. Yeah, that's much better than dialup, but it's hardly "smothering" us with fast Internet. Technically they're offering FIOS in NYC, but generally you can't get it, and they've put a halt on rolling it out "until the economy gets better".

So my point here is that all the arguments about population density and whatnot are BS. These companies just don't have a motivation to invest in upgrades because there isn't real competition.

competition (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 5 years ago | (#28645977)

These companies just don't have a motivation to invest in upgrades because there isn't real competition.

Yeap! That's the problem. There is no competition. Either allow anyone and everyone to use the right of ways or separate ownership of infrastructure from ownership of the services the infrastructure can deliver. I don't thing that that many businesses would be willing to pay to lay fiber, but even if a bunch were willing to how many fibers could be laid down in one place? The problem with one business owning the infrastructure is there would not be much if any competition to improve the infrastructure. The only competition would be between different areas or locations.

Falcon

Scared of amateurs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28641553)

Volunteers may have limited expertise, or they may have biases that aren't evident to the NTIA, he said."

Right, because government employees with limited expertise or biases are so much better than amateurs...

Tread lightly, Slashdot users (0)

sys.stdout.write (1551563) | more than 5 years ago | (#28641613)

For each argument you make against this can be made against open-source software.

Tread lightly, act forcefully. (2, Interesting)

Uncle Ira (586682) | more than 5 years ago | (#28641737)

That's a good point. If even half of the people here on Slashdot that were eligible to volunteer would do so, the Slashdot community could have a very powerful impact on the US government's broadband policy.

Re:Tread lightly, Slashdot users (1)

hardburn (141468) | more than 5 years ago | (#28642165)

Not necessarily. You can only seriously call yourself an Open Source developer if you've written and released some code. While some bad programmers still get that far, this process alone with get rid of a lot of chaff. The same may or may not be true of government volunteers.

Re:Tread lightly, Slashdot users (1)

Artifakt (700173) | more than 5 years ago | (#28643431)

It's not that you're not right as far as you went, but the same may or may not be true of paid government contractors, people in private industry, or just people in general. There are many areas of work where selection pressure is low.

File under (2, Insightful)

ArhcAngel (247594) | more than 5 years ago | (#28641617)

What could possibly go wrong?

Power to the people! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28641629)

Power to the people! >D

Come on, now... (2, Informative)

DarrenBaker (322210) | more than 5 years ago | (#28641651)

Not TFA says 'review' and not 'grant'. The volunteers are going to produce reports, not grant funds. Sheesh.

Great (2, Insightful)

Publikwerks (885730) | more than 5 years ago | (#28641667)

Sweet. Just what we need, a bunch of /b/tards, trolls, and the dregs of society decideding where the money is going to go. I hope you like fast speeds for torrents, pron, and videos of Hitler.

Re:Great (0, Offtopic)

hardburn (141468) | more than 5 years ago | (#28642219)

Just what we need, a bunch of /b/tards, trolls, and the dregs of society decideding where the money is going to go.

I think that's the definition of "democracy".

Re:Great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28645687)

I sure do ^_^

Bedtime Story (4, Funny)

BigBlueOx (1201587) | more than 5 years ago | (#28641671)

"Who will help me approve these broadband requests?", said the Big Red Government.

"I will! I will!", said the Comcast manager.
"I will! I will!", said the Time Warner CEO's wife.
"I will! I will!", said Rupert Murdoch's 2nd cousin.

And they did.

Re:Bedtime Story (2, Informative)

danzona (779560) | more than 5 years ago | (#28641767)

You are not that far off. From TFA:
Volunteer reviewers will be required to have some connection to the broadband industry, although the volunteers will have to comply with rules from NTIA parent agency the U.S. Department of Commerce on conflicts of interest and confidentiality, the NTIA document said. Reviewers must have "significant expertise and experience" in either designing and building broadband networks, educating or training consumers about broadband, or working in programs to increase demand for broadband, the NTIA document said.

Re:Bedtime Story (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28644269)

So...what?

Am I connected with the broadband industry because I have a broadband connection and do I have "significant expertise and experience" in designing and building broadband networks since I was able to set up my home network between Vista and XP computers back in '07?

Jesus Christ that was a nightmare.

Re:Bedtime Story (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 5 years ago | (#28645075)

...working in programs to increase demand for broadband...

Translation: If you work in the porn industry, you're qualified baby!!!

I knew a Craig Settles once... (1)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 5 years ago | (#28641689)

...he played upright bass in the pit orchestra for "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" many years back. Wonder if this is the same guy...

A novel ploy: (4, Interesting)

ThousandStars (556222) | more than 5 years ago | (#28641769)

This is an unusual tactic but one that makes a certain amount of sense: the amount of money going through many federal agencies right now is somewhat like the proverbial alligator being digested by a python. My family's business does grant writing for nonprofit and public agencies, and we've been writing about these kinds of logistical problems for a while; see for example, this post [seliger.com] , or, if you want an alligator's worth of general stimulus posts, all these [seliger.com] .

The upshot is that too many agencies have too much money to cover regulation reviews, RFP development, technical support once RFPs have been issued, reviewers once RFPs have been received, and program officers to oversee awards once they've been made. These problems have been fairly well-known among nonprofits and grant writers for some time; that they're now making it to /. can't help but warm my heart, especially since I think we're writing a BTOP and BIP.

Sweet!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28641839)

Yay!! I wanna be one of the volunteers!

Problem is much worse (1)

Yakasha (42321) | more than 5 years ago | (#28641865)

I think the problem here is further reaching than just getting volunteers to approve $4.7 billion in grants. For instance, why was the USDA [usda.gov] tapped to handle the grants? Certified 5-star corn fed angus broadband is coming to your area!

Six of one, half-dozen of the other (1)

snspdaarf (1314399) | more than 5 years ago | (#28641883)

Volunteer with a bias, employee with a bias, hmm.

Guess what that is how science is funded, NIH, NSF (4, Interesting)

neurocutie (677249) | more than 5 years ago | (#28641937)

Nearly all "extramural" science/medicine/health grants funded by NIH, NSF, (even parts of DOD), are "peer reviewed" by a similar mechanism, basically VOLUNTEER experts in the field. One gets a tiny "honorarium" and it is ALOT of work. The peer review system in science/medicine is full of problems, but it is also better than any other system yet tried or conceived...

... Did any of you read the article? (2, Informative)

snwyvern (1334877) | more than 5 years ago | (#28641975)

In order to qualify as a "volunteer" for this service you need to be an employed member of the business community relevant to the topic. So-- No, Homeless Bill, and/or Sergi the Special Needs Bus Attendant will not qualify for the program. ... *sigh*

The article misleads... (1)

JaneTheIgnorantSlut (1265300) | more than 5 years ago | (#28642197)

"To be considered as a reviewer you must have significant expertise and experience in at least one of the following areas: 1) the design, funding, construction, and operation of broadband networks or public computer centers; 2) broadband-related outreach, training, or education; and 3) innovative programs to increase the demand for broadband services. In addition you must agree to comply with Department of Commerce policies on conflict of interest and confidentiality." http://broadbandusa.sc.egov.usda.gov/files/BTOP%20Peer%20Reviewer%20Letter%207-6%20v2.pdf [usda.gov]

Re:The article misleads... (1)

snwyvern (1334877) | more than 5 years ago | (#28643057)

Yeah, it does. But I think my point was that it's not as dire as the teeming masses of commenters suggest it to be.

Streissand effect, etc.

Re:... Did any of you read the article? (2, Informative)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 5 years ago | (#28643905)

In order to qualify as a "volunteer" for this service you need to be an employed member of the business community relevant to the topic.

Wrong. Per the announcement [usda.gov] linked in TFA, current employment in the field is not require, but "[t]o be considered as a reviewer you must have significant expertise and experience in at least one of the following areas: 1) the design, funding, construction, and operation of broadband networks or public computer centers; 2) broadband-related outreach, training, or education; and 3) innovative programs to increase the demand for broadband services." (emphasis added)

Indeed, being currently employed in the field probably makes it more difficult, since you have to abide by the Department of Commerce's conflict of interest rules; I'm not familiar with their particular rules, but certainly you'd be less likely to fall afoul of them if you didn't have any current direct interest in that market despite prior experience.

Re:... Did any of you read the article? (1)

snwyvern (1334877) | more than 5 years ago | (#28643969)

"Wrong?" Who's an expert in the field who did not get to such a state by employment? ... I can understand saying it's "not require" -- But "Wrong." takes it to a new level of douchebaggery.

Re:... Did any of you read the article? (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 5 years ago | (#28644039)

"Wrong?" Who's an expert in the field who did not get to such a state by employment?

Probably no one, but what you need to have been in the past to have gained the qualifications needed to be considered is different from what you must be to be considered. There's a mile of difference between requiring (as the call for volunteers does) that applicants have expertise and experience in the broadband field and requiring (as was GGP falsely claimed was the case) that applicants be employed in the field.

But "Wrong." takes it to a new level of douchebaggery.

It is not "douchebaggery" to point out that something is wrong when, in fact, it is wrong.

(It may be "pedantic" if the point of error is minor, but here its a pretty big difference in meaning.)

Volunteers not such a bad idea (1)

eweekhickins (1167593) | more than 5 years ago | (#28642143)

There are two issues here that argue in favor of the government's approach: who says hiring people will be any better or quicker, and whatever happened to the idea of open source? No one gets paid for committing code to an open source project, and no one should suggest that those who do are "losers." You'd need to implement the same kind of safeguards against cronyism with paid people as with volunteers, you'd still have to train them, and they'd still have a nearly impossible task. The issue isn't money (Congress actually allocated money to hire people); it's where and how do you recruit the best people. I'm not so sure asking for volunteers is the worst way of going about this, as I argue further here [informationweek.com] .

There's a reason analysts have big opinions (3, Funny)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 5 years ago | (#28642191)

It's 'a little scary' that volunteers will have the power to accept and reject broadband applications, said Craig Settles, an analyst and president of consulting firm Successful.com

It's a little scary that someone who runs something called "Successful.com" is considered credible enough to quote.

Re:There's a reason analysts have big opinions (1)

basementman (1475159) | more than 5 years ago | (#28642663)

Don't judge a man by his domain name, judge him by his shitty website.

Notice what the critic does for a living? (3, Insightful)

jordandeamattson (261036) | more than 5 years ago | (#28642317)

So, did anyone RTFA? Did they go and take a look at Mr. Settles web site and notice what he does for a leaving? Well, he helps people deploy broadband setups! And one of his big draws is helping people through the grant process.

Hmm....could his criticism be tied to the fact that this is going to make his job of "influence peddling" a bit more difficult?

There is a strong tradition in the US of volunteers stepping up and doing as good, if not better, job as the so called Pros. Of course these "amateurs" (literally those who do it because of love or passion, check your Greek) are scorned by the "professionals" (literally those who do it solely for money, check you Greek again). And for good reason: the amateurs usually ask awkward questions.

Now, Mr. Settles throws up juries as a strawman to attack this setup. Well, if criminal and civil juries worked the way they did at the founding of our country, or the way Grand Juries do now in many locales, I say, "Sign me up." But if you want to treat me like a mushroom, I this thinking person says, "No thank you!"

Outsourcing at it's best (1)

iCantSpell (1162581) | more than 5 years ago | (#28642503)

I guess you can pay enough indians to vote for what ever you want...

Real stimulus!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28642511)

This means more kickbacks for all! I'm all in! I'll volunteer! Send your gifts to...

Anonymous Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28642651)

I've been reading /. for years and I can't for the life of me figure out why no one has hit on the real issue here.

This doesn't have anything to do with trying to get a "fair review" and thus granting the contracts to the best applicants. So... what is it?

It's just more of the typical lazy CYA crap that goes on in government all the time.

1st NTIA worker: Hey we have to grant some broadband contracts.
2nd NTIA worker: How do we pick the best ones without having to do any work while keeping our jobs?
1st NTIA worker: Easy... we get some money to fund a "peer review" process like they did for that other agency! That way the volunteers will do all the work! Then we'll just skew the results to allow us to issue the ones we wanted in the first place. Woot!
2nd NTIA worker: Genius! We'll also cover our asses at the same time, if one of our buddies screws up the contract we can say "but we sent it out for review!". No wonder you get paid the big bucks!

Seriously, I'm sick of government employees being able to hire out their jobs. Isn't this what we pay them for to begin with? They should know the job and they should do the work. They should be saving us money, not looking for way to spend even more while doing even less.

"Waah! Their not hiring consultants like us" (5, Insightful)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 5 years ago | (#28642693)

It's 'a little scary' that volunteers will have the power to accept and reject broadband applications, said Craig Settles, an analyst and president of consulting firm Successful.com.

If Settles had read the NTIA announcement, he would have noted that volunteer reviewers will not have the power to accept and reject applications, but instead that instead their "evaluations will be an important factor considered by NTIA in determining whether to award grant funding". Either Settles didn't read the announcement and should have some idea what he is talking about before he shoots his mouth off, or he did read it and he's being deliberately dishonest. Settles then goes on to complain:

Volunteers may have limited expertise, or they may have biases that aren't evident to the NTIA, he said.

This is no more true of volunteers than paid reviewers; relevant to these issues, on the expertise issue, the announcement states: "To be considered as a reviewer you must have significant expertise and experience in at least one of the following areas: 1) the design, funding, construction, and operation of broadband networks or public computer centers; 2) broadband-related outreach, training, or education; and 3) innovative programs to increase the demand for broadband services. In addition you must agree to comply with Department of Commerce policies on conflict of interest and confidentiality." (emphasis added)

Essentially, this are the same kind of requirements that would be put into place for paid reviewers, but Settles real problem is revealed when he says this:

I think you'd want the best people stimulus money can acquire influencing who the winners are.

The real problem is that he is that Successful.com is a broadband consulting firm, and that the decision to seek volunteers rather than paid consultants for this task means less total business for broadband consulting firms resulting from the stimulus bill, and more for actual broadband services.

Happy to help (1)

DigitalCrackPipe (626884) | more than 5 years ago | (#28642757)

Now where to I apply for the money, and where do I apply to vote? I'm looking forward to approving my $4B project involving laughing all the way to the bank (no need to be greedy, I'll leave a little for the others).

Anonymous Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28643147)

" It's 'a little scary' that volunteers will have the power to accept and reject broadband applications, said Craig Settles, an analyst and president of consulting firm Successful.com. "

It's a little scary that Settles does not understand how, for instance, National Academy panels work. It's volunteer work, too.

I hope they take into consideration (1)

S7urm (126547) | more than 5 years ago | (#28643249)

That there truly is a certain level of knowledge and expertise that should be a requirement for the "volunteers" to participate. I would hate to think someone like my dad, who is the technological equivalent of a sloth, would have any kind of say over this kind of issue.

I do understand that just the knowledge of the opportunity to volunteer would gleen out quite a large portion of the people you wouldn't want making these kinds of decisions, but all the same, it would be frightening if there was no over-sight involved with these decisions by civilians.

Re:I hope they take into consideration (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 5 years ago | (#28643961)

[I hope they take into consideration] That there truly is a certain level of knowledge and expertise that should be a requirement for the "volunteers" to participate. I would hate to think someone like my dad, who is the technological equivalent of a sloth, would have any kind of say over this kind of issue.

You know, you could read the official government announcement of the volunteer opportunity linked in TFA, which specifies the prerequisites for volunteering.

I do understand that just the knowledge of the opportunity to volunteer would gleen out quite a large portion of the people you wouldn't want making these kinds of decisions, but all the same, it would be frightening if there was no over-sight involved with these decisions by civilians.

You could read the announcement linked in TFA (or even the excerpt of it directly quoted in TFA), and realize that (contrary to the scare-mongering by the consulting-firm president also quoted in TFA) the volunteers will not be making decisions about applications, but writing up evaluations which will be referenced by the actual NTIA decisionmakers.

Re:I hope they take into consideration (1)

S7urm (126547) | more than 5 years ago | (#28643983)

and YOU could read farther down, where I realized I was guilt of not RTFA and commented on the fact that TFA mentioned reasons why I had nothing to fear.

jerkface :)

Commented too early! (1)

S7urm (126547) | more than 5 years ago | (#28643367)

Volunteer reviewers will be required to have some connection to the broadband industry, although the volunteers will have to comply with rules from NTIA parent agency the U.S. Department of Commerce on conflicts of interest and confidentiality, the NTIA document said. Reviewers must have "significant expertise and experience" in either designing and building broadband networks, educating or training consumers about broadband, or working in programs to increase demand for broadband, the NTIA document said.

This is a lot more reassuring, though reading further on below this part of TFA, they make a valid point in that who would volunteer their time for this, with no personal gain involved? I think that quite a few people would because I would hope that people feel passionate about helping to disseminate broadband to their communities, however people are naturally elusive in regards to their time spent away from their families/friends/moms, especially people in a long work day intensive industry like Telecommunications, and I think the point is valid that not enough people will volunteer much time to something that has no personal benefit.

I shall volunteer! (1)

wurble (1430179) | more than 5 years ago | (#28645613)

I would be willing to sacrifice my time, and give the gift of my knowledge and skills to the task of reviewing grant proposals. But first, let me just right up this grant proposal...

Can't wait for them to come online (1)

Again (1351325) | more than 5 years ago | (#28645779)

Just saying that we are going to slashdot_effect every single one of them.
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