WASHINGTON Obama administation officials will kick off a U.S. broadband initiative next week to be funded through the economic stimulus package.
On Tuesday (March 10), Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack along with officials from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Commerce Department will outline plans for accelerating the broadband deployment to rural and underserved areas.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act includes about $7.2 billion for a broadband build out. The Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration will oversee $4.7 billion while the Agriculture Department's Rural Utilities Service will control $2.5 billion in stimulus funding.
Administration officials are expected to announce a series of hearings designed gather public comment on possible projects.
Along with speeding broadband deployment to rural and underserved areas, the initiative aims to target "strategic institutions that are likely to create jobs," the Commerce Department said.
Industry observers said the key to expanded broadband deployment is providing greater access, not speed of access. Gordon Day, president of IEEE-USA, said accelerated deployment of broadband networks could spur collaborative activities that could boost, for instance, science and math education.
Scheduled to join Milsack next week at the Commerce Department are acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps and Rick Wade, the Commerce Department's acting chief of staff. (Ex-Washington governor Gary Locke has been nominated to head the Commerce Department, but must still be confirmed by the Senate.)
Commerce officials said the meeting will be streamed live on the Web.