Telecom companies vying for $7.2 billion in broadband stimulus funds are urging federal regulators not to mandate a super-fast internet speed as a criterion for winning the money, Reuters reports. Critics of this approach, though, say no government standards led to the United States lagging its industrialized peers in average broadband speed, viewed as a key driver of economic development. Telecommunications firms are lobbying to shape the still unwritten rules that will govern how regulators dole out the billions. "Speed is a movable target," said Dave Malfara, speaking for Comptel, an industry group that represents smaller rivals to companies such as AT&T. "One of the fears that we have is that a definition would be too high" and the cost of providing such fast service would eat into profits, he said at a public meeting on the funding. The Wireless Communications Association, which represents wireless broadband companies including AT&T and Clearwire, agreed with that view. Companies say internet speeds should be set by the market, but public interest groups say that’s one reason why the United States is behind Japan, France, and Korea, among others, in broadband speeds, according to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. "The government’s role is to set some targets and some policy goals and to push the market," said Mark Lloyd, vice president of strategy for the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. "We’ve relied on market forces for the last 15 years. … We have a market failure here."

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