Congress voted 60-38 Friday night to approve the $787 billion economic stimulus package, and the final number for broadband stimulus funds is now $7.2 billion with the money to be split and directed toward projects benefiting underserved and rural markets. Tax credits for service providers are nixed.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration, overseen by the Department of Commerce, will distribute $4.7 billion, while the Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service will deliver $2.5 billion. All broadband deployment projects under the NTIA program must be completed within two years of the award and must adhere to the Federal Communications Commission's Internet nondiscrimination and openness principles. Though there are no specific speed requirements, the NTIA is directed to promote projects that will "provide the greatest broadband speed possible." The bill also calls for the FCC to produce a "national broadband plan" that makes recommendations to Congress on how to ensure the universal adoption of affordable broadband services.
The amount of money and the choice of administrators are among issues being criticized, but at this point all that remains to make the deal happen is President Obama's signature, which is expected early this week.
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