Service Providers and National Broadband Incentives

Even if President Barack Obama gets Congress to pass his economic stimulus plan by mid-February, the United States won’t leap out of recession. In fact, economists predict unemployment still will top 8.2 percent by the end of the year, and one Harvard University professor believes the jobless rate could exceed 10 percent.

The great hope for upward momentum rests on Obama’s “American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan,” which aims to save or create at least 3 million jobs in sectors including health care, energy, education and, yes, communications. For our industry, it appears the plan will revolve around “expanding broadband lines across America,” as Obama said in his first major economic policy speech, on Jan. 9. If America invests $10 billion in broadband networks alone, it will generate approximately 498,000 jobs, according to a new report from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF).

Opinions vary on how to motivate providers to build more broadband networks, particularly to unserved and underserved areas. The incentives vary, too. Lawmakers are talking about grants, loans, tax credits and bonds. Depending on who they are and where they operate, service providers have different takes on what’s really best.

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