Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Vice President Announces $2 Billion in Broadband Grants

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden announced $2 billion in Recovery Act grants and loans to bring broadband to communities that currently have little or no access to the technology. The initial $182 million investment is for eighteen broadband projects benefiting seventeen states, and has already been matched by over $46 million in private capital. The projects are to be rolled out over the next 75 days.

The broadband grants in the Recovery Act will total over $2 billion in the next 75 days, and over $7 billion within the next year.

In a statement, the White House said a big focus of the new awards is on the "middle mile" -- the infrastructure that connects the Internet backbone to underserved communities across the nation. The middle mile investments are intended to set the stage for private investors to finish the job, with the so-called "last-mile" connections to homes and businesses.

The National Economic Council also released a new report (pdf) called "Recovery Act Investments in Broadband: Leveraging Federal Dollars to Create Jobs and Connect America". This report outlines the Administration's strategy for using stimulus dollars wisely to get the biggest return on investment, in terms of jobs and exciting new opportunities for Americans.

In rural areas and areas with low population density that are difficult to reach, Recovery Act awards will fund investments in the "last mile" of service. The funding is also targeted at community
institutions that provide critical services in urban and rural areas, including schools, libraries, and hospitals.

Significantly, the report notes that the awards come with requirements for "open interconnection," meaning that grantees must make any infrastructure funded with taxpayer dollars available for interconnection with other networks.

Examples of projects getting funding include:

  • North Georgia Network Cooperative will receive a $33.5 million grant to deploy middle-mile infrastructure to eight counties in the impoverished Appalachian region of northern Georgia and North Carolina. The 260-mile fiber optic ring will directly connect 245 community institutions. The ring also includes 2,600 interconnection points that will allow Internet service providers to build out last-mile connections to end users.

  • A partnership between ION, a for-profit company based in the capital of Albany, and the Development Authority of the North Country (DANC), a public benefit corporation will receive a grant of $39.7 million -- these entities will develop a regional broadband plan that will immediately connect more than 100 community institutions.

  • The Biddeford Internet Corporation, a public-private partnership between service providers and the University of Maine, will receive a $25.4 million Recovery Act grant to construct middle-mile infrastructure across rural Maine.

See also