WASHINGTON, December 23, 2009 - Proponents of Broadband over Power Lines got a boost last week as Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, D-N.Y., introduced the Rural Broadband Initiative of 2009, to amend the Rural Electrification Act to include programs meant to bring broadband to areas where BPL might be most effective.
The bill, if enacted, would create a Rural Broadband Advisory Panel under the auspices of an Office of Rural Broadband created by presidential directive. The panel would be headed by an undersecretary for rural broadband, to be appointed by the Senate.
The Undersecretary would conduct outreach to all rural areas, and commission studies to assess all relevant technologies, including WiMAX and BPL, to determine which would best serve needs of rural consumers.
Within 180 days, the undersecretary would be required to report to the President a "comprehensive rural broadband strategy" containing recommendations to improve interagency cooperation, coordinate implementation of the plan among federal agencies, and address "both long and short term" solutions for bringing broadband to rural America.
The Act would also direct the Secretary of the Treasury to establish a rural broadband innovation fund in order to provide capital for experimental projects and to bring emergeing technologies to rural areas.
The undersecretary for rural broadband would also chair a broadband advisory board, including representatives from state and local government, equipment vendors, utilities, wireless carriers, satellite carriers, and incumbent local exchange carriers.