Submitted by Daniel A. Freeman on February 9, 2009 - 10:34am
Despite some valiant efforts by librarians and other tech crusaders, money allocated for contributing to America's broadband infrastructure has been removed from the stimulus bill. From Ars Technica:
The prospect of an unprecedented federal outlay on broadband deployment, politically unimaginable a year ago, has brought together some strange bedfellows in recent months. For the first time, it seemed as though advocacy groups like Free Press and Public Knowledge, corporations normally on frosty terms (such as AT&T and Google), and techie academics were all singing from the same hymnal. With the total spending package expected to top $820 billion, and President Obama pledging to invest in high-tech infrastructure, some groups dared to hope for a broadband windfall as large as $44 billion...
...Telecoms—and Republicans—have balked at the "open access" strings on those federal dollars; these are vague in terms of practical significance, but seen by many as a backdoor imposition of net neutrality regulation. An untimely Pew survey appeared to show that two-thirds of putatively "underserved" Americans without broadband simply don't want it.
As I've said before, we aren't economists, so we won't weigh in on the debate over whether this broadband money is "stimulus" or "spending". But it seems inevitable that updates to our broadband infrastructure--modernizing equipment, expanding access to areas that don't currently have it, increasing speed for those who already do--is something that America will need to invest in in the near future regardless of whether or not it is part of an economic "stimulus".
Technically, the door is not closed yet. A vote on the bill is not likely to come until Tuesday, but given the Senate's willingness to compromise the funding out, it seems impossible that it will make it back in.