CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va., July 27, 2009 — The Obama administration’s broadband stimulus program “has not been marketed well,” Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said at the kick-off to a Monday morning event at which top federal and state officials were speaking on it.
Striking a politically moderate note at a time when national Republicans – and Virginia gubernatorial candidate Robert McDonnell – have criticized the fiscal stimulus as wasteful, Warner said that “only Democrats” would characterize a program with “$300 billion in tax cuts as a spending program.”
He was speaking at the Virginia Summit on Broadband Access at the Piedmont Virginia Community College here.
In addition to one-third for tax cuts, another third of the stimulus funding is for state programs, and the final third is for new federal programs, such as the broadband stimulus program addressed by Monday’s summit.
In his remarks, Warner touted Virginia’s preparation for the stimulus funding, through public-private partnerships and fiber builds in rural regions of Virginia, and through its advanced work in broadband mapping.
“We’re certainly further along than other states,” Warner said in an interview with BroadbandCensus.com. Broadband mapping “gives communities a guide to know where there is or is not service available. It’s helpful, whether you’re applying to the RUS [Rural Utilities Service] or the NTIA [National Telecommunications and Information Administration].”
Such activities have put Virginia “ahead of the curve” and “in a good position to take advantage of” broadband stimulus funds, Warner said.
Warner, along with current governor Tim Kaine (D), guided extensive investments in broadband as governor of Virginia from 2002 to 2006.
Additionally, Warner and Virginia’s then-Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra co-chaired an extensive broadband mapping initiative in 2006. In his remarks, Warner highlighted the broadband “toolkits” they put together for unserved communities, as positive tools for development.
Chopra is now Chief Technology Officer for the Obama admnistration.
“Since we put the toolkits together, we’ve had two objectives: one, to build infrastructure, and two, to create sustainable business models,” he said in an interview. “As a result, it has aggregated demand and business.” In his opinion, an open, updated broadband map allows communities to target their applications and find the best uses for stimulus money.