WASHINGTON, December 17, 2009 – A number of Democratic lawmakers jumped on the broadband bandwagon Thursday to support the use of federal money to encourage adoption of the technology, while one Republican was quick to criticize the Obama Administration for excessive government spending.
“Today, the promise of the [Broadband Technology Opportunities Program] begins to be realized,” said Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV in a statement. “These first grants represent an important, initial step towards stimulating job creation as well as expanding consumers’ access to and adoption of broadband. For those in rural areas and low-income households, broadband provides educational, healthcare, and employment opportunities that may not otherwise be available.”
Rockefeller, whose committee held a hearing in October to examine oversight of the broadband stimulus programs, was responding to an announcement by Vice President Joe Biden naming the first grant recipients of the $7.2 billion Congress allocated in January for national broadband investments. The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration and Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service were charged with distributing the funds but faced delays due to the magnitude of the task and the number of applications they received.
Senators John Kerry, D-Mass., and Paul Kirk, D-Mass., and Congressmen Edward Markey, D-Mass., Michael Capuano, D-Mass., and Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., gathered with Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino gathered Thursday to discuss the importance of the broadband grant their state is getting. “In Boston, 80 percent of public school kids have no broadband service at home in large part because their parents cannot afford it, and that’s why we pushed like hell to invest in broadband deployment through the stimulus bill,” said Kerry in a statement. “While we will continue to push for the agencies to move the money quickly and give all Massachusetts applicants a fair hearing, I am extremely pleased to see that stimulus funds are now flowing.”
“This is one way of reducing the much higher unemployment rate among minority and underserved communities,” added Lynch.
Members of the New Mexico Congressional Delegation were also encouraged to see their state on the list to receive grant money.
“Internet access is no longer a luxury, it’s an important part of our everyday lives. We must work to ensure that all parts of our state have Internet access so that students and businesses alike have the tools they need to succeed,” said Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., in a statement. “By making Internet access available to the public, our state’s libraries are providing an extremely important service. This grant will help them reach out to even more New Mexicans.”
Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, said “Bridging the digital divide for rural residents and diverse communities is key to spurring small business growth and expanding educational opportunities in our state.” Rep. Harry Teague, D-N.M., added that “Rural and tribal communities are often left behind in the technology innovation race. By introducing these communities to broadband technology, not only can we increase educational opportunities, but we can also boost our small businesses and local economies.”
Reps. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., and Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., also spoke to the importance of public access to broadband.
Meanwhile, Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., was not thrilled with Biden’s broadband stimulus announcement in his home state. “Mr. Biden is quick to publicize the buckets of borrowed cash he’s handing out today … But will he look Georgians in the eye on Tax Day when they are forced to pick up the tab? If expansion of broadband is a priority of the federal government, then it should be reflected that way in our budget rather than tossed on the growing pile of national debt,” said Price.
“This administration is on an epic spending binge that is going to result in one serious fiscal hangover. Joe Biden would have us believe he is Santa Claus today, but he’ll look like the Grinch who stole Christmas when the stimulus bill comes due,” Price continued.