Senate Cuts Broadband Grants From Draft

According to the New York Times, the bipartisan coalition of senators currently trying to trim the massive stimulus bill have a cut a provision allocating 1.5 billion dollars for the extension of broadband service in rural areas. At this time, I’m not completely sure where the Times got the 1.5 figure, but I have isolated the section of the Senate draft (available at; itself an interesting experiment in democratic transparency, but I digress).

The proposed section would extend large grants to projects which provide broadband access to more remote rural areas, where investment by private business seems unlikely. Barack Obama has several times mentioned this laudable goal (obliquely in the Inaugural address; but also see my coverage here and the Bits blog for a dissent), expressing his hopes that building internet infrastructure will engage those currently excluded by the largely urban digital class.

In some sense, I can see why these senators see this program as just another pork earmark, and indeed the mega-stimulus bill is chock full of government waste. On the other hand, I think a case can be made that greater connectivity in rural areas could positively impact commerce and development, and hence actually stimulate regional economies. As I’ve said many times before, broadband networks should be considered parallel to highway spending. It is informational infrastructure, and though its less visible that overpasses, it is no less important.

The grants would put people to work building the network, and internet companies could expand into rural areas without the expensive outlay of new wires, thus tapping a new consumer base of houses and businesses eager to connect with each other and the world. The potential for human development through distance learning courses on the internet could help lift rural communities from isolation and low productivity. In fact, maybe this is better than endless concrete pouring, if anything I hear about Japan’s near 3 trillion dollar infrastructure stimulus in the 90’s is true.

Be Sociable, Share!
Posted in Current Events, I&D Project. Comments Off on Senate Cuts Broadband Grants From Draft

Comments are closed.