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Obama urged to devote stimulus funds to broadband

Fri, 12/19/2008 - 7:45am
Brian Santo

As President-elect Barack Obama crafts a stimulus package that may total upwards of $850 billion, he is being urged to devote $44 billion on a broadband program.

An advocacy organization called Free Press has drafted a proposal that suggests:

  • $15 billion be devoted to create a grant program for rural broadband development (recommending a minimum of 5 Mbps symmetrical).
  • $5 billion to extend the existing rural broadband infrastructure program to include wireless connectivity.
  • $1.5 billion to develop and administer a system to “foster the deployment of advanced broadband services in urban areas and to underserved rural homes by lowering the effective cost of deployment via accelerated depreciation of capital investments.
  • $1.5 billion for companion program to the one just described, this one a tax incentive program designed to trigger investment in providing advanced broadband to the same constituency by lowering the effective cost of deployment via broadband investment tax credits.
  • $5 billion for a program to reward service providers who deploy multiple strands of fiber to customers, with the provision that the additional fiber would be made available to competitors. Free Press said this approach has proved viable in other countries.
  • $10 billion for bonds for broadband. This program will pay the interest on qualifying short- to medium-term corporate bonds issued specifically for certain types of broadband infrastructure investment. This program will be particularly attractive to Competitive Local Exchange Carriers (CLECs) and other nontraditional telecommunications companies, which could foster substantial investment in the uncompetitive special access market, according to the Free Press.
  • $200 million as a grant to support the construction of a nationwide public safety network in the 700 MHz band. Alternatively, award the spectrum directly to public safety agencies and earmark the money for equipment.

Additional programs are proposed for “lifeline” broadband, school and library access, additional rural development grants and health care access.

The full text of the Free Press report, with details on each of the proposals, is available here.

Free Press is a non-partisan organization headed by Robert W. McChesney, professor of communication at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

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