Go to Appearance > Menu to set "Primary Menu"

Bringing you the latest in Gigabit Networks, broadband usage, wireless and more

Tag archive

Ted Kennedy

Broadband Providers Applaud as Stimulus Bill Heads to White House

in Broadband Stimulus by

WASHINGTON, February 13, 2009 – Broadband service providers can breathe a sigh of relief as the economic stimulus package, with the provisions for high-speed internet services intact, headed to the President’s desk late Friday night after a marathon day of voting by lawmakers.

The $787 billion spending measure passed the House on a 246-183 vote early Friday afternoon.

House Democrats rejoiced despite not being able to attract a single Republican vote. The stimulus legislation will be “transformational” to the economy, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. said at a press conference following the vote. Democrats should feel a “sense of satisfaction” at the cooperation required to pass the bill, she said. The bill represents an effort to follow through on President Obama’s promise of change, she said, and would lead to “swift, bold action.”

The stimulus legislation is the largest economic relief measure in history, Pelosi said. Invoking the first 100 days of John Kennedy’s presidency, Pelosi noted that “in a few short weeks,” Obama had successfully worked with Congressional leaders to pass a major bill “faster than any other President.”

In their opposition, House Republicans indicated they want to go down the “same old path,” Pelosi said. But the Speaker was resolute on following through with the President’s agenda: “We will not turn back.”   Republicans certainly “can’t say that this a do-nothing congress,” quipped Rep. David Obey, D-Wis.

House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio said the 1,000 page bill consisted only of “spending, spending, and more spending.” Americans “deserve better,” he said, “and we think we have a better idea.”

The Senate also approved the bill, 60-38, after more than five hours, possibly the longest vote in the chamber’s history, though the Senate historian said that no sources were available to confirm any such record. The roll call opened at 5:30pm Friday, and was held open by an agreement between  Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. so that Sen.  Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, could return from his mother’s funeral to cast his vote.

Because Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., remains at home undergoing cancer treatment, and Ohio senior senator George Voinovich, a Republican, could not be persuaded to switch his vote as a courtesy to his colleague, Brown’s “aye” vote was necessary to meet the 60 vote threshold demanded by Senate rules.

President Obama ordered a military plane dispatched to retrieve the lawmaker from his Cleveland home. Brown arrived in the Senate chamber at 10:45pm, and after a brief conversation with Reid, signaled for the clerk to record his vote at 10:47pm. The bill will be sent to the White House, where President Obama is expected to sign it during a Monday ceremony.

The portions of the bill dealing with broadband services were met with almost universal acclaim by industry leaders. The broadband measures “will fuel our nation’s investment in technology to map, modernize and expand our broadband infrastructure,” said NCTA president Kyle McSlarrow.

Expanded broadband service will ” drive our economic recovery with new jobs, better educational opportunities, and more efficient access to health care,” McSlarrow said, adding that he looks forward ” to working with policy makers at all levels.”

While language specifically targeting wireless services was removed in conference, John Taylor, public affairs manager for Sprint Nextel Corporation said the company was “very encouraged” by the final version of the bill. Taylor called the inclusion of broadband in the stimulus the best way to create “high-tech, high-wage jobs — the best way to grow the economy.”

Taylor said Sprint is pleased that the bill makes no distinction between wireless and wired broadband services. The “technologically neutral” language of the measure means that companies that provide wireless broadband services can compete for grants.

Wireless broadband has greater potential, Taylor said. Because wireless broadband is cheaper to deploy, Taylor argued that companies like Sprint were “better positioned” to reach unserved and underserved areas.

Taylor said he couldn’t offer any comment on the open access provisions in the bill, which apply the FCC’s 2005 Internet Policy Statement as the minimum standard grantees must apply when building out their networks. Sprint Nextel would reserve judgment until the NTIA and FCC completed rulemaking procedures for the grant program. “The devil is in the details,” he said.

Stimulus Compromise Awards $7.2 Billion for Broadband, Splits Funding Between Agencies

in Broadband Stimulus by

By Andrew Feinberg, Reporter, BroadbandCensus.com, and Drew Clark, Editor, BroadbandCensus.com

WASHINGTON, February 13, 2009 – Advocates for federal promotion of broadband access breathed easier after a congressional conference committee reported a final version of the economic stimulus bill with $7.2 billion for broadband – more than either chamber had allocated individually.

The conference report provided for a total of $7.2 billion dollars for broadband programs. $4.7 billion will be administered by the Commerce Department, and $2.5 billion will be administered by the Agriculture Department.

The House version would have spent $6 billion on broadband. Although initial version of the Senate bill boosted the total to about $9 billion, the final Senate-passed measure put the total at $7.1 billion.

The legislation is designed to increase broadband adoption and deployment in unserved and underserved areas, and in schools, libraries, and to low income Americans and the elderly. The bill also encourages deployment of broadband services to improve public safety communications among first responders.

Some observers feared that the broadband section of the stimulus bill might be cut from the final conference report. But rather than reduce the amount of funding or remove the program entirely, the conference report included compromises on the amount and direction of funding for new broadband deployment, open network requirements, and the role of the Federal Communications Commission.

In a compromise between the two chambers, $2.5 billion will be allocated to grants administered by the Agriculture Department’s Rural Utilities Service. The House bill allocated $2.825 billion, while the Senate bill had allocated $100 million to the service.

Under the final agreement, the $4.7 billion administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration of the Commerce Department comes with several specific requirements.

Of the $4.7 billion in NTIA funds, up to $200 million are reserved for “public computer center capacity,” specifically community colleges and public libraries. Another $250 million is set aside for competitive grants for “innovative programs to encourage sustainable adoption of broadband services.” Another $10 million will go to oversight by the department’s inspector general.

The final version will make up to $350 million from the $4.7 billion in NTIA funds available for broadband mapping.

In a change from both the Senate and House versions, however, that $350 million “may be expended pursuant to Public Law 11-385 [the Broadband Data and Improvement Act] and for the purposes of developing and maintaining a broadband inventory map pursuant to division B of this Act.”

Division B of the fiscal stimulus bill is the section in which the NTIA is given direction on the parameters whereby it should spend its $4.7 billion, and in which the FCC is tasked with developing a specific national broadband strategy.

In other words, up to $350 million may be spend both on broadband mapping, according to the provisions of the Broadband Data and Improvement Act, and according to the broadband strategies and direction developed by the NTIA and the FCC.

The House had allocated $350 million to the NTIA to implement broadband mapping, while the Senate had allocated $350 million to be provided through S. 1492.

The Broadband Data and Improvement Act, or S. 1492, passed Congress last October. But the final version of the measure omitted any funding, and also struck the national broadband map that had been included in the House-passed Broadband Census of America Act, or H.R. 3919.

Additionally, the fiscal stimulus bill provides for the FCC – subject to the consent of the Appropriations Committees – to seek to transfer NTIA funds to the FCC.

The final agreement maintains the general structure of the Senate broadband provisions, which did not include the high mandatory speed requirements for the receipt of broadband funds that were included in the House measure.

The compromise version does add an additional section, Sec. 6001 (h)(2)(B), which requires that the Assistant Secretary of the NTIA to consider applications that will “provide the greatest broadband speed possible to the greatest population of users in the area.”

NTIA will also receive an additional $650 million for its television converter box program in order to make sure enough coupons are made available to Americans before the final transition to digital television transition on June 12, 2009. The transition was originally set to occur February 17, 2009, but was pushed back at the request of the Obama administration and with the support of the FCC and consumer groups.

The FCC’s role in the broadband grant program has been diminished somewhat. The House bill called for the commission to define the “unserved” and “underserved” areas that grants would be directed towards.

The conference report only allows the agency an advisory role, with the NTIA acting “in consultation” with the commission. Final authority over the “Broadband Technology Opportunity Program” will rest with the NTIA.

The conference report language was welcomed by many advocates of network neutrality, some who had feared the Senate version of the bill including “open access” requirements for grant-funded networks would be removed by conferees at the behest of the telecommunications industry.

Reacting to the Final Stimulus Agreement

The plan for a national broadband strategy is a good idea that is long overdue, said Free Press Policy Director Ben Scott. The FCC is the agency with the most experience to outline a national broadband strategy, he said. Scott said Free Press was “not too concerned” over the reduction in the FCC’s responsibilities over the grant program because the commission does not have any statutory authority to award grants.

Scott, along with National Cable and Telecommunications Association president Kyle McSlarrow signed a letter to Senate leaders last week asking that NTIA be the made sole grantmaking authority.

Even with the compromise between NTIA and the RUS, Scott said he thought NTIA’s role is “totally appropriate.” He said it would be “foolish” for NTIA to ignore the FCC, he said, since the commission has the most experience in distributing telecommunications funding via the Universal Service Fund.

Scott reserved his highest praise for the “open access” provisions in the bill, which direct the NTIA to require grantees to adhere, at minimum to the “four points” of the FCC’s 2005 Internet Policy Statement.

The openness provision is a “really big moment in telecommunications policy,” Scott said. By codifying the FCC’s policy statement into law for the first time, Scott said it indicates a clear legislative intent for NTIA to eventually go “over and above” the FCC’s rules.

Moving Toward Final Passage

Both chambers are expected to vote on the bill before day’s end. While the House is expected to vote sometime after 2 p.m., Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said he would hold off on a vote until Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, could return from his home near Cleveland, where he is attending his late mother’s funeral.

Aides for Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., said he would not be returning to Washington to vote because of his ongoing treatment for a malignant brain tumor. Also in question was whether any planned vote would occur after nightfall. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., an Orthodox Jew, does not participate in votes that occur on the Jewish Sabbath, which extends from Friday’s sunset to Saturday evening.

Broadband Census Resources

Go to Top