Update on Broadband & Stimulus Packages

So I think the final word on the Stimulus package is $7 billion to broadband to un-served and under-served areas. It looks as if providing access is broadly defined as providing infrastructure, access to computers or education.

Most of that money will be managed by the NTIA and some by RUS, however, word on the street is that NTIA will seek guidance from the States – especially when it comes to determining which areas are un- or underserved. (I suspect the Connect Minnesota maps will come into play!) The goal is to award funding before the end of 2010. Federal funding for the project should not exceed 80 percent (although it looked like there may have been a loophole there.) There seems to be some skepticism about the likeliness of spending all of that money by 2010.

Tax credits, it seems, are not part of the plan. So that seems to advantage the smaller providers. I think it also indicates more accountability for funds.

A provision I especially like, the FCC is set to the task of developing a national broadband strategy. (Are they the right folks? I don’t know but the need is there!)

So what does that mean for Minnesota? I think it’s tough to say. The NTIA is required to fund at least one project in each state. So that’s good. I read on the MPR web site that the estimate of $4 billion for Minnesota from the Stimulus package does not include any broadband grants.

3 thoughts on “Update on Broadband & Stimulus Packages

  1. Requiring that every state get a grant is not necessarily a good thing. We should be rewarding progressive states like Minnesota and not forcing it to wait around for everyone else to catch up.

    Also, $4 billion doesn’t go that far spread across 50 states. That’s only $80 million a state. While you can build something significant for that, we’re only talking about regional networks, not state-wide networks.

    The key for Minnesota is to get out ahead of this issue and show that you have more shovel-ready rural broadband projects that will deliver next-generation connectivity to unserved and underserved areas than any other state.

    At the same time, need to be careful not to allow johny-come-latelys to stroll in and take away money from projects that are truly shovel-ready. Already I’ve been hearing from communities saying, “Well, if there’s free money, maybe we should deploy broadband.” Those aren’t the ones we should be rewarding; it’s those communities that have already been progressive and are ready to move quickly that should get priority.

  2. I hope that they are able to get started very quickly. Like you, I’m worried about those with half an idea who jump on the bandwagon – but I’m also worried about the good ideas that have been stalled.

    Broadband has never been all over the news the way it has been for the last 6 weeks – but in Minnesota is feel like it’s all stimulus package and maps, I haven’t seen as much news from the ground. That is to say news of fiber going in, wireless goign up or local innovation.

    My real hope is that those stories are hitting the headlines soon.

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