I woke up this morning to news that President Obama was finally set to sign the stimulus package.? We all await the planned benefits of the package?s economic multiplying effects, but I found myself drawn the bill?s direct beneficiaries.? As I researched the package?s various components, I was struck by a very interesting initiative to expand broadband access nationwide.
The stimulus bill includes $7.2 billion earmarked for the expansion of broadband nationwide, with the intention of making the internet and broadband technology accessible to every U.S. citizen.? $2.5 billion of that amount would go specifically to the Department of Agriculture to focus on development in more rural areas.? The remaining amount would be distributed via the Commerce Department by September 2010 and distributed to projects that can finish within two years.? Grants will be awarded to programs that accelerate broadband growth in unserved areas, institutions that are likely to create jobs, or programs that are expected to benefit the public.
This initiative is certainly a broad one, and is by no means fully scoped out.? The terms ?broadband? or ?unserved areas? have yet to be fully defined.? Speed requirements are also vague, although the FCC previously identified 768Kbps as the accepted minimum speed for broadband last March.? The potential benefit is equally broad.? As fast as the internet has grown over the past decade, imagine what it could be if it was accessible to the masses?? Commerce, education, personal interactions, even fantasy basketball would all be significantly impacted by such an expansion.
As I considered the plans new broadband initiative I thought to myself, how appropriate and timely it is that we have a president who so clearly embraces technology?? Dubbed the first geek President, Obama and his crew text, twitter and write app?s at a level that would make your neighborhood geek proud.? Obama?s even admitted to being a trekkie/superhero junkie.? I can actually imagine him scoring big points on Guitar Hero in the Oval Office between meetings.? Certainly past presidents have used technology (spy satellites, infrared imaging, I watch movies!), but none have embraced it at the cultural level that Obama has.? The stimulus bill is just further testament to this fact, as he simultaneously seeks to expand our technological growth.? And while some may say this is untimely expansion given our economic plight, I can?t help but see some parallel between this proposed broadband expansion and the prosperous train growth during the Great Depression. The best time for expansion is during economic struggle so that we may enjoy the fruits of our labor during times of prosperity.? How cool is that?