Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Obama broadband plan lacks details, not funding

What may have been the largest crowd ever to gather at the Department of Commerce was on hand yesterday as the Obama administration released its plan to spend $8 billion on a new broadband Internet network that promises to give every American access to a high-speed Internet connection. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration said the funding for grants would be released in three rounds with the first round available as early as next month.

"Obama has touted the stimulus provision for broadband Internet networks as a way to generate jobs right away; workers will be needed to dig more trenches to lay down fiber and put up more cell towers," reports Cecilia Kang of The Washington Post. "He's also focused on broadband as a key to creating valuable high-paying jobs in the future that can help lift troubled economies."

But the Obama plan appears to fall short on details. For example, little information is being provided on who will qualify for the grants and how the stimulus money will be spent. The plan was also "broadly worded in a way that can include wireless, fiber optic and cable networks, and the agencies said they will take into consider which technologies make the most sense from an economic and technological perspective for the area served," adds Kang.

What is clear is that "grants must be awarded by Sept. 30, 2010, and the government must ensure projects are mostly complete within two years," writes Kang. "Applicants must also show the project would not have occurred but for the stimulus funding." Three different agencies will be in charge of the $8 billion. The NTIA will over see $4.7 billion, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will oversee $2.5 billion in loans and grants, and the Federal Communications Commission will have $350 million to create a better system of tracking where broadband exist and will also develop a stratagey for getting broadband access to all Americans. (Read more)

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