A few more clues are coming out about the stimulus package and its $7.2 billion for bringing broadband to underserved areas.
The bill no longer includes tax credits for companies like AT&T but includes grants that could help smaller service providers.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will administer $4.7 billion, and the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service will administer $2.5 billion.
One thing that will be key is who ends up heading the NTIA because it controls a big chunk of the funds, says broadband advocate Craig Settles, president of Successful.com. Currently, former Sprint Nextel executive Anna Gomez is serving as acting head of the NTIA and will stay on as deputy assistant secretary after a permanent head is named.
Another significant piece of the measure is it appears to give state and local government control over how they go about implementing broadband projects, and “this is huge in terms of ensuring communities get what they need,” says Settles, who advocates a hybrid approach, such as combining fiber with WiMAX or another wireless technology. It also appears not to favor the incumbents and gives some teeth to open network access requirements.
President Barack Obama’s emphasis on automating healthcare ties into broadband because it can enable the transfer of high-bandwidth documents, Settles says. A lot of things – job training and education, for example – can be delivered more effectively with broadband, he adds.