The Obama Administration’s $825 billion stimulus package proposal includes $6 billion to improve U.S. broadband infrastructure. It is not yet clear how the money is to be spent. The proposal reportedly does not propose any new initiatives.
The communications industry and some consumer groups have recommended a substantial allocation of funds for new broadband initiatives. Communications companies have also been agitating for a package of tax breaks and other incentives. Blair Levin, a former FCC chief of staff who’s been advising the President-elect, was dispatched a couple of days ago to modulate those expectations (story here).
“The broadband piece of the Obama agenda is not going to be done solely in the economic recovery package,” Levin said, thus raising the possibility that the incoming administration may propose a broadband program separate from the stimulus package.
As for the money in the stimulus proposal, Levin referred to using existing government agencies and programs to disburse funds for broadband programs.
There are few broadband programs extant. One is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Broadband Loan and Loan Guarantee Program, which was created to promote broadband penetration in rural areas where service is lacking.
There are some other limited programs administered by the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), and through the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
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