Telecom Waits, Hopes For Boost From Stimulus Funds

By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | September 2009 Vol. 64 No. 9

Contractors' perspectives
With construction down and the future uncertain, utility contractors hope new projects will result from the $2.5 billion in stimulus funds of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service (RUS) Broadband Investment Program to expand broadband services to rural and under served areas.

Ron Tagliapietra, president of the Power and Communications Contractors Association (PCCA) and senior vice president of utility contractor Michels Corp., says that members of the PCCA and his company definitely will seek to be involved in projects funded by stimulus money.

"We would expect to start seeing broadband stimulus funded projects out for bid in the third quarter of 2009," said Tagliapietra. "With this in mind, projects in northern states may see limited activity in 2009 due to seasonal weather related delays. The timeline for completion is a critical piece of this program. It is our understanding that if RUS and NTIA fail to spend the allocated funds within the required timeline, unspent funds would be taken away from these organizations and revert to the general fund of the treasury."

Tagliapietra said the projects should provide opportunities for subcontractors, including directional drilling specialists. He added that the short timeline for completion of projects should not be a problem unless the pool of qualified labor and subcontractors becomes drained so that contractors cannot meet the required completion dates.

Contractors considering bidding on stimulus funded programs should evaluate proposed projects to determine if the allocated funding is sufficient for the scope of work involved, advises Tagliapietra.

"Nobody," he said, "wants to waste time and resources bidding on underfunded projects. Another factor for consideration is these projects will most likely require Davis Bacon or some other form of prevailing wage requirement due to the federal funding."

Founded in 1945, the PCCA is composed of leading construction, manufacturing, supply and service companies in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Celebrating its 50th year in business in 2009, the Michels Corporation is one of North America's largest multi-division utility contractors.

Ken Trawick, president of Quanta Services telecom and broadband cable operations, said Quanta Services will seek work under the program.