Better Broadband Better Lives

New Senate Compromise on Stimulus Legislation Has $7.1 Billion for Broadband

in Recovery Act by

WASHINGTON, February 9, 2009 – A late-Friday agreement among senators negotiating the fiscal stimulus legislation allocates $6.65 billion to broadband investments, $350 million to broadband mapping, and $100 million to distance learning and telemedicine grants and loans.

Almost all of the $7.1 billion in broadband will be channeled through the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, apparently thwarting an effort by some rural-focused senators to split broadband funds with the Agriculture Department, as the House-passed version had done.

This Senate compromise version – which was published on – deleted  the $2.85 billion that the House-passed version had allocated to broadband grants that met certain minimum specific speed requirements. It also deleted the $2.85 billion that the House-passed version had allocated to the Agriculture Department’s Rural Utilities Service.

It instead channels almost all broadband funds through the “Advanced Broadband Program” provisions of the NTIA. And in spite of a $2 billion cut in the funds available, from $8.65 billion to $6.65 billion, it preserves most previously existing facets of the Senate bill.

Among those provisions were requirements that not less than $200 million be spent on competitive grants aimed at expanding public computer center capacity, not less than $250 million be spent on “competitive grants for innovative programs to encourage sustainable adoption of broadband service,” and spending $10 million for audits by the Commerce Department’s Office of Inspector General.

While the $2.825 billion for the Rural Utilities Service was deleted, the new Senate bill does include $80 million for distance learning grants, and $20 million for distance learning loans, both of which would be administered by the Agriculture Department.

Separately, the new Senate agreement preserves original language that “up to $350 million may be expended” pursuant to the Broadband Data Improvement Act.

While designed to increase federal government knowledge of broadband, the Broadband Data Improvement Act -- passed last October -- does not require the public disclosure of any additional broadband information.

The new Senate stimulus legislation also calls for NTIA to create “a comprehensive nationwide inventory map of existing broadband service capability and availability in the United States.”

From the text of the new Senate version, it is unclear whether carrier-specific information would be included on such a map.

Broadband Census Sources Broadband Stimulus Wiki has been collecting proposals about broadband-related stimulus proposals on the Broadband Stimulus Wiki.

Broadband Breakfast Club

Don't miss the Broadband Breakfast Club on Tuesday, February 10, 2009, with Donald C. Brittingham (Verizon Communications), Tom DeRiggi (Rapid DSL & Wireless), John Kneuer (formerly of NTIA), John Muleta (M2Z Networks) and Steve B. Sharkey (Motorola) on "The Role of Wireless Frequencies in Widespread Broadband Deployment" at the Old Ebbitt Grill, from 8 a.m. - 10 a.m.

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Drew Clark is the Editor and Publisher of and President of the Rural Telecommunications Congress. His telecommunications-focused law firm, Drew Clark PLLC, works with cities, rural communities and state economic development entities to promote the benefits of internet connectivity. The articles and posts on and affiliated social media, including the BroadbandCensus Twitter feed are not legal advice or legal services, do not constitute the creation of an attorney-client privilege, and represent the views of their respective authors.


  1. This new compromise didn’t “delete” the House provision related to RUS. Money for RUS for broadband buildout was never in the original Senate bill either. The House bill still contains money for RUS. The Senate bill doesn’t; it never did. Nothing has changed except for the dollar figure for NTIA in the Senate bill – it has been reduced.

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