Does Billions for Rural Broadband Belong in the Stimulus Plan?

Critics are questioning whether Congress and the White House are doing the right thing by funding for the expansion of broadband Internet access into the economic stimulus plan. The majority of those who don’t have broadband don’t really want it, according to research.

Among the economic stimulus proposals moving through Congress is one that fulfills an old dream of broadband boosters. It would offer substantial funding for high-speed Internet networks in corners of the country that still rely on dial-up connections or have only one broadband option.

The hope is that construction of these networks will create jobs, and that better access to broadband will spur all sorts of new economic activity. Yet not everyone agrees that broadband funding belongs in a stimulus plan.
Some critics of the idea wonder how many people will actually sign up for the new networks once they are built. Others question how many jobs broadband investments will really create. Even supporters debate whether Congress is going about funding broadband expansion the right way.
Whats your opinion?
I personally believe that providing high speed internet is the first step for developing any population and for a prosperous economic growth in a region.
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  • Yes, it absolutely does. Broadband is no longer a “nice to have”. It is essential for business and full participation in the kind of information that makes a democracy work. I’ve seen it in the more rural areas, business is less for the lack of Broadband. It is also valid as a stimulus because the work of installing it would put people back to work.
    I don’t think that tax rebates, which were the alternative proposal, do much that is really stimulative. Tax Rebates benefit people without any regard to their need for the cash or for how they will spend it. Simply pooring cash into the economy without thinking of it as an investment makes no sense to me.

  • Hi Ali,
    two days ago from Slashdot I found following mention about (hope useful for your investigation) WKR, Aldo
    “According to the WSJ, The US government is about to spend $10 Billion to make little difference in US broadband services: ‘More fundamentally, nothing in the legislation would address the key reason that the US lags so far behind other countries. This is that there is an effective broadband duopoly in the US, with most communities able to choose only between one cable company and one telecom carrier. It’s this lack of competition, blessed by national, state and local politicians, that keeps prices up and services down.’ Get ready for USDA certified Grade A broadband.”

  • Hi Ali – I think the posting from Aldo is really the key here in the greatest respect. Irrespective of how much funding is pumped in, if they don’t open up the market in parallel it’s likely to have liitle sustainable effect.

  • It is key to expand broadband coverage. The US has long suffered from the lack of a National Technology Policy. This is a step in the right direction. It is a necessary step — but only a single step.
    The ‘duopoly’ that Aldo talks about is another major issue. Add to that: throttling and capping, behind the curtain. ISPs can often make up their own rules, keep them a secret, and get away with it.
    Let’s make a plan, and follow it, everybody marching to the same tune. Let’s give regulators some teeth, too. It’s not too late to get started.

  • The question should not be…Does Billions for Rural Broadband Belong in the Stimulus Plan?
    Look at what “The Wheel” has brought us.
    Where will broadband and other technologies bring us in the future? Can the question be…Will the investment in this Stimulus Plan bring jobs? Then I say to you.
    Can we afford it? That’s not the question, the question is can we afford not to have it?

  • Broadband expansion is critical to development in this country. Another poster said it and I’ll repeat it. Broadband service is no longer a luxury service. It’s a basic utility nowadays; it’s a necessity.
    As an ISP engineer that both lives in and serves rural areas I will say that 1) our users want higher speeds, 2) users outside our current reach want our services and 3) we can’t afford to do it without economic help. We’re actively trying to expand the reach of our services but there’s only so much we can do. We were offering DSL in towns with populations under 200 years before it was offered in cities like Kansas City. USF helped us reach areas that we could have only dreamed of prior to USF. We’ve taken the initiative and CLECed the RBOCs in several areas as well to bring more services to those communities. However for all our efforts we still can’t push out high-speed to the edges of our service areas.
    The broadband stimulus should be targeted specifically at those small telcos and CLECs that already serve rural areas. It should not go to the RBOCs in my opinion. They simply don’t care about the rural areas because they can’t make as much money there. They’re beholden to their stock holders and to their bottom line. We independent telcos don’t have that problem. We’re cleaning up in cities that we’ve CLECed. The RBOC ILECs haven’t even noticed and frankly couldn’t care. On average within a year of CLECing a rural community we have over 50% of the homes passed, easily. These are towns all but ignored by the ILEC. They’ll send a tech through town once a week or so to turn up new service or troubleshoot problems and that’s it. We do installs the same day and troubleshoot service issues within hours. There are reasons why we independents are so popular and the incumbents so despised.
    There are those of us that are trying to expand our rural offerings. We’re paving the way for the next 20 years of service by deploying fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) today. However we can only afford to do so in small stages. Construction cost is too great to do it all at once or even in large stages. Give us the support we need to make it happen. Don’t line the pockets of the RBOCs who already have demonstrated that they simply don’t care. They are what’s holding this country’s Internet usage back.

  • Yes, rural broadband does belong in the stimulus plan. During the 1930s, the Fed govt helped bring electricity to most of rural American, which proved critical during WWII. One huge benefit to business will be a new pool of talent (aging baby boomers) who have moved to remote locations. With full broadband access, more high-talent individuals can work from home and make profitable contributions remotely.
    The sooner we get away from “old school” business thinking, in which workers have to be supervised in cubicles, the sooner we will become more competitive in an ever changing global economy.

  • We live in a rural area where no high-speed connections are possible. We are a mere two miles beyond the boundary where Sprint-Embarq’s high-speed service stops. Our family cannot even get DSL through the dish because out trees block the signal. (Don’t ask us to chop down all our trees; we-uns is treehuggers!)
    Everyone I know in our rural subdivision is clamoring for high-speed Internet. Everyone. Dial-up is the pits.
    So, if this $10-billion allotment will really truly bring us high-speed Internet, then more power to it. But I’m skeptical. As several folks have noted, it’s not lack of funding but internecine politickin’ that keeps broadband from reaching the boonies. How can a funding bill do anything about that problem?
    I fear that this bloated stimulus bill is a boondoggle. I don’t expect to see any positive impact on my life if this thing passes.

  • Only if that $10 billion can promote a healthy, competitive market. Some larger metro areas such as the one I live in are getting better about providing more choices but many consumers still have a “take it or leave it” provider. $10 billion spent to allow certain providers to monopolize their territories doesn’t seem like a step toward prosperous economic growth for anyone.

  • What, follow up on the big mistake it obviously was to run electricity out to rural areas?
    And all them Interstate highways, Expressways, should have stuck with dirt ruts!
    Why should I have to pay for some farmer to surf his porn faster.
    OK, being facetious obviously.
    But it is amazing to hear the complaints from people who do not understand the benefit everyone got out of the last handful of major national initiatives. The rural electrification program, the phone system, the interstates, … the internet itself. It was only by expanding it to the masses that the technology behind it became more cost effective and useful.
    Perhaps it could not only extend broadband to rural areas, but push fiber to the curb deployment across the country.

  • Yes ~ rural broadband helps future taxpayers more than it does reasons than business. Educational ~ home school via Internet access to class; parent(s) can also enhanced their education via the same. Building the infrastruture will create jobs beyond just connecting rurual areas, more jobes will be created for educators as well. There is also the social benefit for taxpayers. If more youngsters are on online in lieu of in the streets; this will certainly diminish the number of juvinile crimes.

  • ‘m as about a fiscally conservative as they come, and there’s much in the stimulus plan to hate… but this is actually a good idea.
    It’s an infrastructure enhancement that would actually do what stimulus is supposed to do. It will spur growth in the economy.
    By bringing internet access to larger parts of the country, it will stir growth in telecommunications… reduce costs to consumers by bringing choices to the communications markets in their communities, while spurring growth in several sectors that have become interdependent upon the internet.
    Retailers, who are increasingly branching (or moving) into the internet marketplace due to its inherent efficiency, will have a larger market in which to compete. Rural shoppers will have more choices as well, as all those e-tailers will be competing for their dollars, currently held hostage by the local general store.
    Retail transportation costs will fall aside in favor of more efficient wholesale transportation, because shipping goods to a rural home is better for the environment than driving into town to buy things.
    Educational industries, distance learning, and the primary/secondary educational benefits that are taken for granted by so many will be available to rural learners. from to University of Pheonix, new audiences will have new learning materials, and new opportunities.
    Also, the explosion of small-cap and SOHO web-businesses will expand into these areas. Innovators and entrepreneurs live in the country, too, and not only do our country cousins want to buy stuff on the internet, they want to sell stuff, too.

  • Hi Ali,
    With regard to the stimulus plan, the question really is which initiatives will have the biggest multiplier effect the fastest–i.e., which will help the economy the most?
    With regard to the specific question :In places like Africa, access to the broadband will be an enormous help to their economy and standard of living. But I question whether adding a few million people in the states will have much of an effect in the little time we have to get things going.

  • Hi Ali, I think broadband / wireless services to tertiary areas are key to economic growth. I am very excited about the opportunities the stimulas package will bring to the tech industry and having a tech savvy president.
    If you are planning to focus your marketing on state, local, education and public sector markets this is a good article to read.

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