The $900 billion-or-so economic stimulus package is still being debated in the Senate, and NCTA President and CEO Kyle McSlarrow and Free Press Policy Director Ben Scott are applauding the Senate’s decision to consider measures related to broadband adoption and deployment to unserved and underserved areas.
“In particular, we support efforts in the Senate bill to unify broadband grant support under the expertise of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA),” reads a letter from McSlarrow and Scott to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. (available here). “By selecting NTIA to coordinate and administer the distribution of grant funds, the bill correctly recognizes the value of this agency’s expertise in communications matters and avoids the potential confusion and inconsistencies that might result were the program split among multiple agencies.”
But McSlarrow and Scott want the Senate to adopt “refinements to the legislation that will clarify legislative intent, better target scarce resources, and fuel a national policy built on spurring consumer adoption and promoting technology investment.”
In particular, the two are urging that the focus of any infrastructure grants under the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program be targeted to construction of facilities in unserved areas. “The broader objective should be to use scarce resources judiciously to maximize and modernize the reach of our network infrastructure,” the letter says.
Lastly, the two are advocating that the Senate bill “be strengthened by clarifying that private broadband providers should be eligible to apply for government grants directly without diminishing the role of partnerships with local and state governments.”
The House of Representatives bill (full text here), which passed last week, included billions of dollars for broadband projects. The bill included $2.8 million for the existing Broadband Deployment Grant Program, which funds rural access; $1 billion to be devoted to wireless grants; and the balance to broadband grants.