Thursday, August 26, 2010

USA: A further $1.8 billion investment in rural broadband

Last week US Vice President Biden announced grants totaling $1.8 billion for 94 projects in 37 states aimed at both job creation and technology expansion "as part of an effort to bridge the digital divide between urban and rural areas", according to TechDailyDose.

These projects are part of a programme administered by the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) to expand broadband access and adoption across the country. Further commentary here and also here.

From the official White House statement:
"Today’s announcement includes 66 grants awarded by the Commerce Department for projects to deploy broadband infrastructure and connect community anchor institutions to broadband, create and upgrade public computer centers, and encourage the sustainable adoption of broadband service. It also includes 28 awards from USDA (US Department of Agriculture) for broadband infrastructure and satellite projects that will provide rural residents in 16 states and Native American tribal areas access to improved service. The Department of Commerce awards also contain grants for public safety broadband networks that will improve response times and communication at the scene of emergencies. These projects constitute a critical set of demonstration projects and a head start on President Obama’s commitment to support the development of a nationwide, interoperable public safety wireless broadband network."
A full list of the projects receiving grants is available here and further information on the public safety broadband grants is available here.

These awards follow the announcement in December 2009 of the first projects to receive funds totalling $183 Million under the $7.2 billion Recovery Act broadband grant and loan programme "to bring high-speed Internet to communities that currently have little or no access to the technology". The $7.2 billion total comprises $4.7 billion available through the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and $2.5 through the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS). This previous announcement comprised four different types of award:
  • Middle Mile Awards – $121.6 million to build and improve connections to communities lacking sufficient broadband access.
  • Last Mile Awards – $51.4 million to connect end users like homes, hospitals and schools to their community’s broadband infrastructure (the middle mile).
  • Public Computing – $7.3 million to expand computer centre capacity for public use in libraries, community colleges and other public venues. 
  • Sustainable Adoption – $2.4 million to fund innovative projects that promote broadband demand with population groups where the technology has traditionally been underutilized.
The initial announcement about the availability of funding from July 2009 is here. Both the December 2009 and August 2010 grant announcements cite a report by the National Economic Council which "found that Recovery Act investments in broadband will create tens of thousands of jobs in the near term and expand opportunities and economic development in communities that would otherwise be left behind in the new knowledge-based economy." Further evidence of broadband's economic impact is listed in this previous post.

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