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“Funding the Information Age, Beyond Infrastructure”
The most pressing problems for the country today are focused on how to improve the economy, maintain public safety, develop sustainable energy resources, provide quality health care, and offer educational opportunities to all of our residents, while simultaneously reducing the national debt. Our nation, our states and local governments, our people – all share the burden and feel the pain of the economic downturn. My answer to the budget question posed above, is based not just on consideration of how the $100 million would benefit the most people, but how it could be applied in a way that would positively impact most, if not all of the nation’s priority problems and objectives. The answer then, consistent with this Age of Information must involve our technological infrastructure.
The U.S. is currently 16th in the world in terms of broadband infrastructure. Broadband fiber to the home, to small businesses and rural communities, is a key that will bolster the next economic shift. The presence of broadband provides communities with the opportunity to improve public safety communication, to make health care and education more available for residents. Broadband supports a growing high-tech economy and the jobs to support a growing middle class. It reduces carbon emissions and achieves energy savings and an overall improvement in quality of life. In short, broadband implementation gives the federal government more bang for the buck than any other single initiative.
I recommend that the $100 million be dedicated to supporting the country’s recent investments in broadband infrastructure by funding economic development initiatives that will encourage innovative use of the infrastructure that has been built, or is being built through projects funded by the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). Specifically, the funding would be distributed by the U.S. Department of Commerce in coordination with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) as follow-up grants that would provide economic development expertise at the local level to help build new businesses and to develop the workforce.
NTIA has invested approximately $4 billion in 233 BTOP projects benefitting every state, territory and the District of Columbia. Most of the funding is dedicated to constructing broadband networks, developing public computer centers, and projects to promote adoption of broadband technology. BTOP has met–and in most cases exceeded—its program goals deploying more than 18,500 miles of fiber, installing more than 16,000 new workstations in public computing facilities, and encouraging more than 110,000 households and 500 businesses to subscribe to broadband services.
What better way to utilize $100 million than to build on an existing, successful program—taking it to the next level by infusing the communities that now have broadband at their fingertips with the expertise to maximize its use?
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