WASHINGTON, December 3, 2009 – Despite government delays in announcing the grant awards for the $7.2 billion in broadband stimulus money Congress allocated in January, Vice President Joe Biden Thursday said that within the next month billions will be given to broadband and high-speed rail investments.
“And by design, the items in the act which have the biggest impact are yet to come. Within the next two weeks to a month, another roughly $13 billion is going to be announced rolling out in terms of both investments in broadband and high-speed rail, and competitive education and infrastructure,” said Biden in remarks he gave at the opening session of the White House Jobs and Economic Growth Forum.
“In fact, the money spent on clean water, renewable energy, superfund sites, and much more, is going to more than double — it’s going to more than double in this quarter and will maintain a similar pace for the next two quarters,” he said.
The Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Agriculture Department’s Rural Utilities Service are administering the funds designed to expand broadband deployment and adoption. The agencies planned to complete the first round of funding by the end of 2009, but due to delays, they now plan to so by February 2010.
The agencies also plan to then limit the remaining grant awards to one more round of funding, which they recently said “will begin early in 2010.” All stimulus funding for the broadband initiatives must be distributed by September 30, 2010, according to a statutory deadline set by Congress.
President Obama finished his address Thursday in a spirit of optimism, drawing attention to the nation’s strong technology sector.
“We still have the best universities in the world,” said Obama.”We’ve got some of the finest science and technology in the world, we’ve got the most entrepreneurial spirit in the world, and we’ve got some of the most productive workers in the world.”
“And if we get serious, then the 21st century is going to be the American century, just like the 20th century was. But we’re going to have to approach this with a sense of seriousness and try to set the politics and the chatter aside for a while and actually get to work,” said Obama.
Following the comments delivered by Biden and Obama, senior administration officials hosted a discussion with approximately 130 attendees on job creation and expanding the economy.
Those slated to attend the meeting included Larry Cohen of Communications Workers of America, Eric Schmidt of Google, James McNerney of Boeing, Julius Genachowski, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Jim Whitehurst of Red Hat, Sal Iannuzzi of Monster Worldwide, and Randall Stephenson of AT&T, among others.
“In today’s summit, President Obama reiterated his focus on small business and innovation … Broadband infrastructure investment holds great potential for job creation, both in the deployment but also the innovation it affords. President Obama’s focuses for economic improvement need to be reflected in the distribution of these grants,” said James Losey with the New America Foundation.
Information technology CEOs signed a letter dated December 2 to Obama suggesting the administration take a series of steps to improve the country’s economic wellbeing. The letter asks the President to ensure that implementation of stimulus programs targeted at high-tech investments such as broadband deployment “is completed as swiftly and effectively as possible.”
“Improved healthcare, energy, and broadband are priorities for most of the world; however, our nation is lagging in global leadership in these areas. This must change and the recovery funds are an opportunity to immediately begin effecting change,” reads the letter.
The tech leaders called on Obama “to increase America’s domestic pipeline of highly skilled workers, while also attracting and retaining the world’s best and brightest workers. We should do everything possible to retain highly educated foreign professionals already in this country whose companies want them to stay, and those individuals seeking advanced degrees at our college and universities.”
The letter further asks the President to continue to work toward opening new markets for U.S. goods and services around the world. Tech leaders want the government to enact a permanent extension of a strengthened research and development tax credit and other business tax incentives set to expire at the end of this year.
“In the longer term, we must keep pace with our major trading partners’ tax systems by revising our own international tax code to ensure American companies and workers are able to compete on a level playing field with foreign competitors at home and abroad. Along with expiring tax provisions, providing pension relief through an extended timeline for catch-up payments should be addressed to avoid crushing obligations resulting in further economic contraction,” reads the letter.
Signees to the document included: Dirk Meyer, president of AMD; Mike Splinter, CEO of Applied Materials; John Chambers, CEO of Cisco; Michael Dell, CEO of Dell; Mark Hurd, CEO of Hewlett-Packard Company; Paul Otellini, CEO of Intel; Steven Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft; and Safra Catz, CEO of Oracle.