After President-elect Barack Obama plans the largest government-funded infrastructure program since the interstate highway system in the 1950s, media reform group Free Press calls for the U.S. government to spend $44 billion to improve U.S. broadband infrastructure and extend broadband to rural and other underserved areas.
President-elect Barack Obama should spend $44 billion in broadband stimulus
funds over the next three years as part of his immediate economic program,
according to a new study from the media reform group Free Press. The proposed
tax incentives and grant programs would not include projects previously planned
by telecommunications companies.
Instead, according to "Down
Payment on Our Digital Future: Stimulus Policies for the 21st-Century Economy,"
(PDF) the funds should be allocated for building next-generation broadband
networks, connecting unserved and underserved areas, supporting affordable
Internet connections, providing computers and technology training for
low-income users, and promoting Internet access for children at school and at
"Investing in the information superhighway is a concrete way for
President-elect Barack Obama and Congress to kick-start the economy and secure
long-term prosperity," S. Derek Turner, study author and research director
of Free Press, said in a statement. "But since future generations will be
footing the bill for this stimulus package, Congress must ensure that these
funds deliver the next-generation networks this country needs. There should be
no blank checks."
Obama gets 100 percent on a voting scorecard for supporting technology. Click here to read more.
Turner said telecom and cable companies should not be beneficiaries of the
funds since a "lack of meaningful" competition among current
broadband providers has dampened incentives for network operators to make
substantial upgrades or build out broadband connections to rural and
Under the Free Press plan, tax incentives and grant programs would be
designed to trigger new investments that Turner claims would create "tens
of thousands of new technology-sector jobs" and generate "hundreds of
billions of dollars in economic activity."
The United States
currently ranks 22nd in the world in broadband adoption, with more than 40
percent of all U.S.
homes not connected to broadband. Obama said Dec. 6 that investing heavily in
computers and broadband connections for schools and hospitals would be part of
his immediate economic recovery plans after he takes office Jan. 20. Obama,
though, did not mention a specific amount of money for technology
Obama pledged to make the single largest new investment in national
infrastructure since the creation of the federal highway system in the 1950s.
In addition to infusing school districts and the health care industry with
federal IT dollars, the plan also includes a massive effort to make public
buildings and schools more energy-efficient.
The president-elect said he hopes a flood of federal cash to states for the
projects will ultimately create 2.5 million jobs.
"Broadband is the great equalizer," Turner
said. "It has more potential than any other technology in history to raise
the standard of living for all Americans. Building this world-class broadband
network is a down payment on that digital future."