Monday, February 16, 2009

Broadband Stimulus

I too wish more funds had been allocated for broadband, but at least it's on the new administrations radar screen. Another concern is the administrators - I'm not sure what experience the NTIA and the Department of Agriculture have with broadband deployment. Really, the Department of Agriculture? I understand they deal with Rural Utilities Service, but isn't that water, power, etc? Also, I think it will be interesting to see the "national broadband plan" that the FCC produces as a result of this bill. I'm troubled that there isn't a plan already written. I hope these projects can ramp up fast enough to meet the two-year deadline, but with a plan to be written and administrators with questionable experience with broadband implementation, I can't help but be concerned!
Congress approves $7.2B for broadband stimulus
Congress voted 60-38 Friday night to approve the $787 billion economic stimulus package, and the final number for broadband stimulus funds is now $7.2 billion with the money to be split and directed toward projects benefiting underserved and rural markets. Tax credits for service providers are nixed.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration, overseen by the Department of Commerce, will distribute $4.7 billion, while the Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service will deliver $2.5 billion. All broadband deployment projects under the NTIA program must be completed within two years of the award and must adhere to the Federal Communications Commission's Internet nondiscrimination and openness principles. Though there are no specific speed requirements, the NTIA is directed to promote projects that will "provide the greatest broadband speed possible." The bill also calls for the FCC to produce a "national broadband plan" that makes recommendations to Congress on how to ensure the universal adoption of affordable broadband services.

The amount of money and the choice of administrators are among issues being criticized, but at this point all that remains to make the deal happen is President Obama's signature, which is expected early this week.

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