Parks Associates Blog

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Who's Going to Administer the Broadband Stimulus and How Long Would it Take?

Now that the U.S. Senate may be making substantial changes to the economic stimulus bill that passed the U.S. House last week, the Congressional Budget Office has offered its take on what some of the new provisions might mean. The CBO's explanation goes a long way to answering some questions I've had about who would oversee the broadband deployments that are intended under the $9 billion grant program to extend access to unserved and underserved areas.

The grant funds would be given to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to administer. CBO estimates that we wouldn't see an immediate stimulus from these funds, however. They note that grant recipients would still be required to raise 20% of the rollout/upgrade costs from non-federal sources. And, CBO notes that only 30% of the allotted grants would be spent between fiscal 2009 and 2011.

Still, I wonder if this isn't a bad thing. I'm still wondering how the planning for this is going to take place. We keep hearing that the road and bridge infrastructure portions of the stimulus package could be implemented immediately (according to the Obama administration). We're told that there are road and bridge construction contracts just waiting for funding, and that people could hit the streets in very rapid fashion to start the work. On the broaband side, I wonder if this is the case? Are the state and local governments in a position to rapidly determine the best bang for the buck? Are there some other areas- like telehealth and distance learning - that would benefit from the broadband deployments? If so, how is the coordination between health and education officials, the government authorities, and the operators who will be laying the broadband infrastructure? I'd sure like to get a sense of the coordination (or lack thereof) that's occuring here?

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