WASHINGTON, April 3, 2009 - The NTIA/RUS broadband grant program is "a landmark opportunity" for the cable industry, House Energy and Commerce Communications Subcommittee chairman Rick Boucher, D-Va., said Thursday during a speech at the National Cable and Telecommunications Association's annual convention here.
Boucher praised the industry for its investment in infrastructure which now passes 92 percent of American homes. He said that the broadband stimulus grant program of the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Agriculture Department’s Rural Utilities Service was an opportunity to bring broadband to Americans who lack the ability to receive it.
Boucher said he was optimistic that with coming improvements in content delivery and bandwidth capacity, the U.S. will soon pass countries like Japan and South Korea in broadband speeds available to the home.
"You're the leader in providing broadband across our country," Boucher said, referring to the cable industry.
Boucher said he was disappointed by the nation's 16th place ranking in broadband availability.
Broadband is as necessary for economic performance in today's world as electricity and the telephone service were in times past, he said.
Communities need broadband to compete in the 21st century economy, Boucher said. He called for the cable industry to make full use of grant programs provided by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act: "For the sake of our national economy, we can and we must do a lot better than 16th in the world."
Previous RUS grant programs have been "a genuine benefit" to rural districts by allowing them to upgrade networks to provide broadband service using federal grants, Boucher said.
In some instances, the grants have allowed broadband to reach districts like Boucher's for the very first time, he said.
Boucher implored the industry to be "very aggressive" in applying for stimulus grants. The cable industry's participation is essential for grant money to be spent in a way to properly stimulate the economy, he said.
"I would like to see the example [of local Virginia congressional district spending] repeated hundreds of times over."