Last night, BusinessWeek published a story I co-wrote with my colleague Arik Hesseldahl about the broadband stimulus measures contained in the $825 billion stimulus package released by the House Democrats. The story, Broadband Bill Disappoints Nearly Everyone, is already generating a heated debate on my Facebook page so I thought I’d post the beginning of it here to see if anyone wants to add to the discussion.
Broadband Bill Disappoints Nearly Everyone
Critics say there’s not enough money in the bill and that distributing funds through grants instead of tax credits will hamper job creation
By Spencer E. Ante and Arik Hesseldahl
The initial stab by the U.S. government to promote high-speed Internet access has something to disappoint nearly everyone.
Most communications companies and consumer advocacy groups say the $6 billion in broadband stimulus measures contained in the House Democrats’ $825 billion economic recovery package are a good first step. But they warn that the money won’t be nearly sufficient to meet incoming President Barack Obama’s objective of providing affordable high-speed Internet access to all U.S. households.
“I was incredibly impressed how quickly the House moved,” says Shirley Bloomfield, senior vice-president for federal relations at Qwest Communications (Q), a Denver-based communications provider that serves 14 Western states. “They’ve got some good concepts. But $6 billion is not going to get you to ubiquitous broadband.”
JOB-CREATION EFFECTIVENESS QUESTIONED
Communications providers and various advocacy groups have pegged the cost of creating universal broadband in the tens of billions of dollars. A December 2008 report by the Free Press, an organization devoted to reforming the media, estimated that a broadband infrastructure development program would cost $44 billion over three years. Similarly, the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF), a Washington (D.C.) think tank, projected that providing Internet service to much of the unserved territories in the U.S. would cost about $12 billion. “It’s definitely not enough money,” says Robert Atkinson, founder of the ITIF.