December 17, 2009

White House Kicks-Off Broadband Boost

In an effort to both expand high-speed Internet access and give the economy a publicly-funded pick-me-up, the Obama administration began doling out more than $2 billion in federal grants and loans this week to kick off a two and half month campaign to improve national broadband networks.

The initial $2 billion represents only about a quarter of the funds that have been earmarked for improving broadband access to regions of the country where high-speed Internet access is either sparse or non-existent. 

At a public event in Dawsonville, Georgia, Obama's right-hand man Vice President Biden disclosed some of the details of the $183 million first round of broadband stimulus money.

According to Biden, the initial investment will be divvied up amongst 17 states, with particular concentration on rural areas with limited-access.

"New broadband access means more capacity and better reliability in rural areas and underserved urban communities around the country," said the Vice President in an official statement.

In a press conference, Biden's head economic advisor Jared Bernstein told journalists that the administration was not yet able to offer an exact number as to how many jobs the stimulus money would create.

The goal of the project is to get more American communities connected to the country's "Internet backbone," a massive, network of fiber-optic cables that extend throughout the country.

The Obama administration says that a portion of the funds have been shared with a number of companies and cooperatives, both private and non-profit, who are looking to expand broadband access within mostly smaller towns and cities.

Much of the money is also going to a few major telecommunications corporations who have the materials and know-how to expand the network's infrastructure.

"The new broadband access will help underserved and often hard-hit communities overcome the distance and technology barrier by expanding connectivity between educational institutions, enabling remote medical consultations and attracting new businesses as well as the jobs that come with them," said a White House spokesman in an official statement.

The broadband expansion project makes up only a tiny fraction of the $787 billion economic recovery package passed by Congress earlier this year.