Stimulus Bill Doles Out $7.2B For New Broadband Networks

President Barack Obama today signed into law a far-ranging stimulus bill that allocates $7.2 billion for new broadband networks.

The bill splits the money between two agencies: the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration will distribute $4.7 billion, while the Agriculture Department's Rural Utilities Service will dole out $2.5 billion.

Some consumer advocates had unsuccessfully urged that all money be distributed by the NTIA, arguing that splitting the funds between two agencies would increase administrative costs.

The final version of the bill doesn't impose any mandatory minimum speeds, but says that the NTIA "is expected to consider and support the highest possible broadband speeds in awarding grants."

In a victory for net neutrality advocates, the bill says that companies receiving stimulus funds to build networks must adhere to the Federal Communications Commission's 2005 broadband policy principles, which provide that consumers should be able to access any lawful content they choose.

This bill appears to mark the first time that Congress has officially endorsed those principles, but the FCC already made clear that it believes those principles are the law of the land. Last year, the FCC voted 3-2 to sanction Comcast for slowing some peer-to-peer traffic, on the theory that the slowdowns violated the 2005 broadband policy statement. Comcast, which is appealing that decision, argues that the 2005 statement was never enshrined in law.

The bill also directs the FCC to create a nationwide broadband plan within one year.

2 comments about "Stimulus Bill Doles Out $7.2B For New Broadband Networks".
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  1. Steven Kent from Concept Development Associates, February 17, 2009 at 5:21 p.m.

    Of course we have to split the funding between 2 government agencies. How else would we be able to support a massive build up of the government?

  2. David Thurman from Aussie Rescue of Illinois, February 18, 2009 at 9:19 a.m.

    So let me get this right, we lend (get taxed) the government the money to "give" to the telecom industry to build out more fiber and networks to reach the rural markets (or will the power grid instead distribute) and in return we can then PAY for the NEW broadband access, there by paying twice for a service. What an excellent way to make money and take ours twice.

    The FCC was most efficient with the old CB radio days and the enforcements of that, and well we all now how well the spectrum auctions went, for cell and PCS.

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