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The Updated Fate of Broadband in the Stimulus Bill

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Legislation changes faster than the weather in Texas, so the tweaks to the broadband sections in President Barack Obama’s stimulus bill are nothing unusual. But as the debates get down to the wire (a stimulus package should be finalized be the end of this week), it’s time to revisit the legislation’s effect on broadband providers.

The latest efforts appear to be taking the dollar amount for broadband grants in the Senate bill from $9 billion to $7 billion and increasing the tax credits for broadband deployments, as well as limiting their use to rural areas. Wireless also got a boost in the tax credits with faster wireless broadband speeds of 6 Mbps down becoming eligible for a 40 percent credit, while speeds of only 3 Mbps down could receive a 30 percent break. [qi:050] Beyond the dollar-amount debates, there’s also disagreement about which agency will administer the grants. Most policy watchers would like to see the┬áCommerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration oversee the grant program rather than having several agencies involved, according to Broadband Census.

The talk over the current legislation is bringing up deeper debates that will likely come up again when Obama pulls together his plans for universal broadband. One issue pits wireless broadband against fiber for rural deployments. Another issue focuses on the role of the Federal Communications Commission in any deployment plan. Some in the communications industry want the FCC to merely provide data on broadband penetration, while those in the consumer watchdog groups call for it to take an active role in designing grant programs.

6 Responses to “The Updated Fate of Broadband in the Stimulus Bill”

  1. A few years ago the Alberta provincial government poured millions into Supernet with the goal of bringing broadband connectivity to every corner of the province. Miles and miles of fibre was laid to connect schools, municipalities, libraries and government offices. The ones left out were the rural folks who were in the “last mile” and beyond. This was an opportunity for many entrepreneurs to step up and fill the void with alternate technologies. Alberta is now the ‘most’ connected province in Canada. What ever the US government does with this initiative they must not forget about the rural folks. We don’t all live cities.

  2. coconutwireless

    I might be wrong, but I think it’s supposed to be “limiting their use IN rural areas”

    From my understanding, the emphasis is on building thicker pipes in areas of more dense population.

  3. Bill Dollar


    The bit above about the changes in the tax credits are incorrect. Rockefeller had planned on introducing an amendment making those changes, but the current Nelson-Collins Substitute Amendment (S.AMDT.570) retains the original language S.AMDT.98, that came out of the Finance Committee.

    In fact, much of the Amendments that were actually agreed to during last Friday’s debates did not make it into the “compromise” package, and Reid is not going to offer a manager’s amendment — he’s offering S.AMDT.570 as is.