House Approves Just $6B for Broadband in Economy Act

The U.S. House economic stimulus bill, passed late Wednesday evening, does contain provisions for broadband. Unfortunately, the amount of money allotted just isn’t all that much.

House lawmakers – no Republicans, mind you – passed an overall $819 billion package, called The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. When it comes to the communications industry, $6 billion is set aside for broadband buildouts and $20 billion for health IT, such as converting medical records to digital and outfitting doctor’s offices with high-bandwidth wireless networks.

But there’s a provision that many a legacy service provider resents: the bill requires open networks. Users must be able to attach any legal and harmless device they choose and providers may not discriminate against traffic types.

The bill now moves to the U.S. Senate where differences and details will be worked out in committees. Senate lawmakers have their own version of the act; it actually sets aside about $9 billion for broadband construction. Meanwhile, expect to see big phone company lobbyists press for fewer or no net neutrality regulations. But with Democrats now in control in Congress, it’s almost a sure bet the more conservative, “let the free market reign” policies will be ignored.

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