With the passage of HB 1701 the Washington State legislature once again demonstrated its understandingthat when combating the digital divide states must not just addressaccess issues, but must also focus on dealing with the barriers to broadband adoption by individuals.
This Dispatch will outline how funds allocated in the ARRA aim to support broadband initiatives and how states can leverage broadband to create efficiencies, increase opportunities and begin to bridge a major resource divide in our country by implementing progressive broadband initiatives.
The recently passed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009appropriates an unprecedented amount of money to initiatives aimed atincreasing access and adoption of affordable broadband technology. Thisrecognition of broadband’s rapidly expanding role in all aspects of ourlives, underscores why it’s imperative for states to thinkstrategically about how to integrate broadband into their long-termgoals. For example, broadband can be used to increase governmenttransparency, improve access to healthcare, improve energy management,assist in workforce redevelopment and increase educationalopportunities. By effectively leveraging broadband, a state can createefficiencies, implement cost saving programs, increase transparency,and provide better services and increased opportunities to itscitizens.
The stimulus plan allocates $7.2 billion to promote high-speedInternet programs. The majority of the funding will be used to increasebroadband access in rural, unserved, and underserved areas.Additionally, funding is provided to support community programs thatencourage broadband adoption in low-income communities, for initiativesthat expand public community centers capacity and to fund thedevelopment of a national broadband map. The National Telecommunicationand Information Administration (NTIA) and the Rural Utility Service(RUS) will be charged with distributing the grants and loans. However, NTIA and RUS appropriated funds will operate independently and are mutually exclusive ofone another. For example, if an area is receiving funds with a grantfrom RUS that same area cannot be covered under a project fundedthrough NTIA’s, Broadband Technology Opportunities Program.