To start the 4th of July holiday weekend off right, President Obama today announced that 66 broadband projects across the country have been awarded $795 million in grants and loans from stimulus funds that Congress set aside last year. This is good news, helping to connect dozens of communities and institutions to high speed internet access.
The grants are part of a $7.2 billion broadband stimulus initiative led by two agencies – the Rural Utilities Service in the Department of Agriculture (RUS), and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration in the Department of Commerce (NTIA).
Why broadband? If you’re going to inject public dollars into the economy, then make that investment in a way that generates economic growth. Broadband fits the bill nicely – the networks that will be built to unserved and underserved areas can be used by businesses, to grow jobs, to improve education and healthcare, and to connect residents to high speed Internet access.
So how are the agencies doing? NTIA has spent about $2 billion and RUS has spent about $1.4 billion to date.
You’d think that leaves about $3.8 billion left to be awarded, but Congress is moving to reclaim $600 million of the balance to offset other spending. The House has acted, and now the Senate must agree.
If the amount shrinks, some worthy projects won’t be funded. The long fuse, lit last winter when applications were due, will in some cases fizzle and burn out. And that means some unserved areas will continue to wait for the arrival of broadband connectivity.
But that’s for tomorrow. For the moment, let’s celebrate the projects that received grants and loans today, and enjoy the fireworks!