Obama's Broadband Snub Wasn't A Message

[qi:036] During his weekly radio address, President Barack Obama offered some specifics about his economic stimulus plan, but none related to the $6 billion allocated for broadband as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill of 2009. PCWorld calls attention to that oversight, but they need to relax. There are plenty of details related to broadband in the stimulus package that will be formally introduced Monday.

Some of the bits we care about: It maintains open access to networks built by federal grants. It also funds a previously passed law to determine what areas of the country have broadband. It specifies that “advanced broadband services” must meet speeds of 45 Mbps second downlink and 15 Mbps uplink — that means DOCSIS 3.0 or fiber to the home deployments. And it defines “basic broadband services” as 5 Mbps downlink and 1 Mbps up. Wireless broadband services must meet speeds of 3 Mbps up down and 1 Mbps down up to be classified as advanced, meaning both WiMAX and LTE will suffice.

So no, Obama didn’t single out broadband in his plan, but that doesn’t mean much. At $6 billion, the broadband allocations are far smaller than the tens of billions planned for the programs which received recognition in the address. Also, many of the constituencies that stand to gain from the appropriation bill, such as schools and shipping ports, have readily accessible catalogs of their weaknesses and how much it will cost to fix them. This makes it easy for presidential aids to deliver a number such as 10,000 schools that need modernization or 90 ports that have security weaknesses.

When it comes to broadband, we don’t even know who has access to it or what speeds they have, making it hard to pull the number of potential beneficiaries out of the air. Hopefully, we’ll get more details soon, as Obama says his goal is to get this legislation passed in less than a month.  After those details are in, organizations can start focusing on what exactly they want to see in Obama’s plan for universal broadband, because as members of his transition team pointed out, the stimulus package isn’t where Obama plans to legislate his broadband agenda anyhow.