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 ReadtheStimulus.org – 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
- Text of Senate compromise version of fiscal stimulus legislation (PDF), ReadtheStimulus.org
- Spreadsheet of Senate compromise version of Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine (Excel), Web site of Sen. Nelson, D-Neb.
- Original Senate version (PDF), Senate Appropriations Committee
- Original House version (PDF), House Appropriations Committee
BroadbandCensus.com Broadband Stimulus Wiki
BroadbandCensus.com 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.
Webcasts of the Broadband Breakfast Club Produced in Partnership with:
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