Obama to announce $795M in broadband grants
Updated: With quote from Obama and background on national efforts to expand broadband connections. Also added: A proposed appropriations cut of $602 million in Recovery Act broadband awards.
President Obama on Friday announced 66 new broadband grants and loans totaling $795 million, part of the administration's continued rollout of Recovery Act grants meant to expand high-speed Internet connections across the country.
The awards range from a $5.2 million network infrastructure grant in McCarthy, Alaska to $17.5 million to projects at 190 anchor community institutions in economically distressed areas of Washington D.C. The District government applied for the grant, saying the funds would help bring better Internet service to 650,000 residents and 30,000 businesses.
In a speech this morning at Andrews Air Force Base, Obama described how the awards will create 5,000 jobs immediately and more in the long term.
"And once we emerge from the immediate crisis, the long-term economic gains to communities that have been left behind in the digital age will be immeasurable," he said. The announcement came amid a lackluster jobs report this morning, reported by my colleague Neil Irwin.
So far, the administration has doled out $2.7 billion in grants, which is less than half of the $7.2 billion set aside in the stimulus plan for broadband Internet projects. The new funding will come from the Department of Commerce. That agency's National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Department of Agriculture have been responsible for the dispersement of stimulus funds.
On Thursday, Rep. David Obey, chairman of the appropriations committee, proposed that $602 million in broadband awards be trimmed and redirected toward funding deficits for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Some critics say the broadband grants haven't resulted in the immediate jobs benefits that the stimulus plan was intended to generate. The administration will announce Friday, however, that the new awards will result in 5,000 immediate jobs. Joining Obama in the announcement was Commerce secretary Gary Locke and Agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack.
The grants continue to focus on so-called middle-mile awards, to support the fiber networks that lead into communities and can be accessed by several business, schools, hospitals and homes. Analysts say middle-mile investments are a wiser allocation of funds than end-mile grants straight to people's doorsteps, which would be more costly.
The U.S. lags many countries' who have been for years proactive in getting high-speed Internet connections to its residents. The Federal Communications Commission has some apirational goals to correct that. But Finland, on Thursday, became the first nation in the world to makle 1 megabit speed connections to every home as a legal right.
Here's the roster of awards: (Broadband Award Roster.pdf)
July 2, 2010; 8:44 AM ET
Categories: Broadband , FCC
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