A few weeks ago, in early August, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski declared that the FCC viewed the creation of a national broadband policy as integral to the future of of the nation. Broadband, according to Genachowski, is "our generation’s infrastructure challenge...It is as important as electricity and highways were for past generations."
Now that the first round of requests for broadband stimulus funding have been tallied, Genachowski will have to prove if he actually meant what he said. According to a recent announcement posted at Recovery.gov, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service (RUS, not to be confused with R.O.U.S.) have received nearly 2,200 requests totaling some $28 billion dollars for the meager $4.7 billion the NTIA actually has to allocate.
The PR statement linked above does its best to spin this as a victory, claiming that the two government departments have "Announce[d] Strong Demand for First Round of Funding to Bring Broadband, Jobs to More Americans," but when the program that's supposed to fund said projects is worth less than 20 percent of the aid requested, it's not much of a win. The proposals under consideration, meanwhile, are only aimed at addressing the problems of rural broadband availability and rollout—if you live in the inner city or in an area of the country that doesn't qualify as rural but is just flat broke, this round of projects isn't meant for you.
Whether you agree or disagree that the government should be involved in crafting a national broadband strategy at all, it's increasingly clear that $7.2 billion won't do much more than get the ball rolling. If Genachowski truly believes that ensuring broadband delivery across the nation is vital to the country's future, he'll have to find a way to convince his friends on Capitol Hill to fund it.
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