The debate needs to add input from small businesses, mayors and towns. "It's like your parents are fighting over what your allowance should be, and you're like, 'I'm 17! I think I have a viable, credible voice,'" he said.
In an interview on Monday, Settles said the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Commerce Department and the Agriculture Department should try to listen more closely to voices on the ground when they allocate broadband grants and plan network infrastructure projects.
Getting consumer input cannot end with an ex parte meeting with Washington's consumer advocacy organizations, he said.
"At an execution stage, the execution of the funding process, we would be better served by the decision-making being more heavily influenced by the respective communities being touched by broadband proposals — the people who really own the broadband issue," he said.
Figuring out how to make that happen across a gigantic country could be logistically daunting, but Settles said the FCC is already making strides in that direction: taking hearings on the road, including community representation in its Native Nations Broadband Task Force.
"We need to see policies that pass on of responsibilities from Washington to the local level at a faster pace," he said. "Broadband is too complex to have blanket solution."