Government OKs $1 Billion for 66 Broadband Projects

Second round Recovery Act funds high-speed Internet access for businesses, health care facilities and schools in hard hit communities nationwide.

The U.S. Departments of Commerce and Agriculture have released $795 million--augmented by some $200 million in private investments—to underwrite grants and loans for 66 projects nationwide aimed at extending broadband Internet access to businesses, healthcare facilities and schools in underserved communities.

The government said that the funding, the second round of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), is part of the overall $7.2 billion designated for broadband expansion nationwide, $4.7 billion of which comes through the Commerce Department and $2.5 billion from the Department of Agriculture.

“The Departments of Commerce and Agriculture will invest in 66 new projects across America that will finally bring reliable broadband Internet service to communities that currently have little or no access,” said President Obama, in announcing the funding.

“Once we emerge from the immediate crisis, the long-term economic gains to communities that have been left behind in the digital age will be immeasurable,” Obama said.

By the government’s count, the funding is expected to benefit 685,000 businesses, 900 health care facilities and 2,400 schools nationwide. The projects are expected to directly create about 5,000 new jobs, officials said.

Since December 2009, about $2.7 billion in ARRA funding has been allocated to some 260 broadband projects. About $1.46 billion for 105 broadband projects in 37 states has come from the Department of Agriculture, officials said.

Broadband funding is targeted for infrastructure projects--so-called “middle mile” and “last mile” connections for communities lacking broadband access--and public computing centers such as libraries, community colleges and other public settings for Internet access.

The stimulus money--allocated among 41 states, with one project extended nationwide and four split among multiple states—targets a wide variety of broadband efforts.

For example, in Arkansas, a $3.7 million mix of loans and grants to the Northern Arkansas Telephone Co. Inc. will be used to expand fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) and ADSL2+ services in Marion and Boone counties in rural north central Arkansas.

The company estimates that the project will generate about 100 jobs and benefit 2,000 people, 70 local businesses and 10 community institutions.

A $45.4 million grant was awarded to the Massachusetts Technology Park to construct more than 1,300 miles of new fiber to bring affordable, high-speed Internet access to residents and businesses in western Massachusetts.

The Park, which is matching the grant with an additional $26.2 million, estimates that the project will create hundreds of jobs upfront, drive economic development in the community for a number of years and benefit more than 1 million people, 44,000 businesses and 700 community institutions.

State listing of awards

The state-by-state awards are Alabama 1, Alaska 1, Arkansas 1, Arizona 3, Colorado 1, Washington, D.C. 2, Georgia 2, Illinois 1, Iowa 6, Kansas 3, Kentucky 1, Maine 1, Massachusetts 1, Minnesota 3, Mississippi 1, Missouri 2, Montana 3, New Hampshire 1, New Jersey 1, North Carolina 1, North Dakota 2, Nevada 2, Ohio 1, Oklahoma 3, Oregon 3, Pennsylvania 1, South Dakota 2, Tennessee 2, Texas 2, Utah 1, Vermont 1, Virginia 1, West Virginia 1, Wisconsin 2 and Wyoming 1.

Iowa and Missouri split an award, as do North Carolina and Tennessee. Vermont, New Hampshire and New York also share an award and so do Wyoming and Idaho.

One award, a $62.5 million grant to the University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development, to which the University added another $34.3 million, spans all 50 states.

The project will interconnect about 30 existing research and educational networks, creating a nationwide, high capacity network for an estimated 100,000 essential community anchor institutions.

“All told these investments will benefit tens of millions of Americans,” said Obama.

Broadband “can prepare America to run on clean energy by helping us upgrade to a smarter, stronger, more secure electrical grid,” he said.

TAGS: Internet,broadband,Obama,government,Federal

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