On BusinessWeek.com, the article “Broadband Bill Disappoints Nearly Everyone” by Spencer E. Ante and Arik Hesseldahl gives some insight into how the broadband component of the economic stimulus package is structured. Fortunately, the rural broadband interests are the ones not so disappointed.
About the only groups that are totally happy with the bill are advocates of rural broadband. One such organization is ConnectedNation, a nonprofit that seeks to encourage build-out of broadband networks in rural areas. “We’re still in the process of reviewing, but overall we’re very pleased with the details,” says Brian Mefford, the group’s chief executive.
One key provision in the package, he says, is funding for the Broadband Data Improvement Act, a bill signed into law by President Bush that provides grants to help states map their broadband infrastructure in detail, a key step in the process of addressing service needs. The bill, when passed, contained no provision for funding. But the House stimulus package calls for funding it to the tune of $350 million.
“It looks like the vast majority of the funding is targeted at rural areas because the language is focused on grants and incentives in unserved and underserved areas, and in most cases that’s going to point to rural areas,” says Mefford.
Despite the criticism, policymakers aren’t panicking. They know that this is just a first step. House members will still negotiate with the Senate, where some of the more contentious issues may be resolved. For example, the Senate version may include tax incentives for broadband and more money for the universal broadband effort.