The $825 billion economic stimulus proposal from the incoming Obama administration and House Democrats contains $6 billion for improving the U.S. broadband infrastructure but not the tax breaks that phone and cable companies wanted. The wireless industry, meanwhile, is cheering because it's included in the broadband stimulus package it had lobbied hard to be a part of.
A summary of the proposed spending plan released by House Democrats calls for the money to be used for "broadband and wireless grants in under-served areas to strengthen the economy and provide business and job opportunities in every section of America, with benefits to e-commerce, education, and health care. For every dollar invested in broadband, the economy sees a ten-fold return on that investment."
Obama transition team member Blair Levin said any monies that came from the economic stimulus package would use "existing structures" and programs to get money pumped into the economy in a timely fashion. That means existing programs and departments such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Broadband Loan and Guarantee Program, the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the FCC's Universal Service Fund mechanism will get more funds.
There's also likely to be controversy over the definition of what broadband should be, with some companies and public interest groups calling for 100 Mbps download speeds, while others might be content to see modest 10-50 Mbps download speeds. Lower download speeds might allow Clearwire and other wireless broadband buildouts to fit in.
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