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Biden Makes Official Broadband Stimulus Announcement

in Broadband Data/Broadband's Impact/Recovery Act/Smart Grid by

WASHINGTON, December 17, 2009 – Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday that $2 billion will be made available on a rolling basis over the next 75 days to increase broadband penetration across the country. The money is part of the $7.2 billion Congress allocated in January for national broadband investments.

“New broadband access means more capacity and better reliability in rural areas and underserved urban communities around the country. Businesses will be able to improve their customer service and better compete around the world,” said Vice President Biden during an event at Impulse Manufacturing in Dawsonville, Georgia, with Governor Sonny Perdue, R-Ga.

“This is what the Recovery Act is all about – sparking new growth, tapping into the ingenuity of the American people and giving folks the tools they need to help build a new economy in the 21st-century,” he said. 

The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration has been charged with distributing $4.7 billion and the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service with $2.5 to encourage broadband adoption. “The awards are designed to help underserved – and often hard-hit – communities overcome the distance and technology barrier by expanding connectivity between educational institutions, enabling remote medical consultations and attracting new businesses – as well as the jobs that come with them,” said the NTIA.

While Biden spoke in Georgia, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke traveled to Bangor, Maine, to announce $25.4 million in grants to build broadband infrastructure in rural and disadvantaged parts of the state. On Tuesday Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack plans to travel to Ohio to discuss a $2.4 million broadband award and the role it could play in connecting the community to the smart energy grid.

The federal government Thursday announced it was allocating the following funding amounts: $121.6 million to improve connections to communities lacking sufficient broadband access; $51.4 million to connect end users like homes, hospitals and schools to their community’s broadband infrastructure; $7.3 million to expand computer center capacity for public use such as in libraries; and $2.4 million to fund innovative projects that promote broadband demand in population groups where the technology has traditionally been underutilized. 

Grants awards are being given to the following entities: North Georgia Network Cooperative, Inc., Biddeford Internet Corp. ION Hold Co., South Dakota Network, LLC, Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records, City of Boston, Regents of the University of Minnesota, The Inland Northwest Community Access Network, New Mexico State Library, Rivada Sea Lion, Big Island Broadband/Aloha Broadband, Peetz Cooperative Telephone Co., The Chatham Telephone Company, The Bretton Woods Telephone Company, Slic Network Solutions, North Central Ohio Rural Fiber Optic Network, and The Pine Telephone Company.

Senators John Kerry and Paul Kirk, and Congressmen Edward Markey, Michael Capuano and Stephen Lynch, gathered with Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino Thursday to discuss the $1,906,439 broadband grant being awarded to the City of Boston. “This new investment will fund a coordinated project among three community anchors to provide upgraded and expanded hardware, software, and public computing training in 26 public libraries, 11 public housing developments, and 16 Centers for Youth and Families in Boston,” according to a statement from Kerry’s office.

 "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.

Dan Hays, director of the telecommunications practice at PRTM, a management consulting firm, was less enthusiastic about today’s announcement. He said that with just 18 projects of the 2200 applications receiving funding, and less than 2 percent of the appropriated monies being released, the first wave of awards is a real disappointment. “Despite the high level of interest expressed by applicants, and many intriguing projects submitted, it’s a real let down that more have not been approved even after a delay in the award date,” said Hays.

NTIA and RUS initially planned to announce the first round of awards in November but were overloaded with applications and subsequently delayed.

NTIA has posted more BTOP project information here:

Winter covered technology policy issues for five-and-a-half years as a reporter for the National Journal Group. She has worked for USA Today, the Washington Times, the Magazine Group, the State Department’s International Visitor’s Program, and the Council on Hemispheric Affairs. She also taught English at a university in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

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