President Obama signed into law on Tuesday the $787 billion stimulus package, which includes $7.2 billion for broadband grant and loan programs.
Both the House of Representatives and the Senate on Friday approved a conference report that reconciled the two chambers’ versions of the bill.
The bulk of the funds directed at broadband–$4.7 billion–will be distributed through a program run by the Commerce Department, while $2.5 billion will fall under the jurisdiction of the Agriculture Department, giving particular emphasis to broadband deployment in rural areas.
The final version of the bill maintains that projects funded by the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration must adhere to nondiscrimination and openness principles. The funds must also be distributed before September 30, 2010, to projects that can be completed within two years.
The NTIA’s “Broadband Technology Opportunities Program” is intended to “award competitive grants to accelerate broadband deployment in unserved and underserved areas and to strategic institutions that are likely to create jobs or provide significant public benefits,” the bill says.
Maybe this is what WiMAX needs to really get going, especially in rural areas. Wildblue and other Internet-via-satellite services are meeting the need, but many are unwilling to pay upwards of $50 per month for service.
Having broadband Internet is an indispensable resource for all — not just businesses — and something most are not willing to sacrifice in order to cut costs during the current economic climate. Subsidizing broadband roll-out to under-served areas of the country will bring it closer to being what it should be: an entitlement for every U.S. citizen.