$3b approved for rural broadband

Money to go to ISPs to fund start-up costs for broadband expansion; open access rules apply.

At least $3 billion is almost certainly headed for broadband build-out for rural and hard-to-serve areas. The House Energy and Commerce Committee voted to include the grants as part of the $825 billion stimulus package, Reuters reports.

The grants add an "open access" requirement for wireless carriers and ISPs. The House Agriculture Committee will consider another $3 billion for broadband to rural areas.

"These are public dollars and networks built with this funding should be open," said Rep. Anna Eshoo, a California Democrat with many technology companies in her district.

The money would go to the likes of AT&T, Verizon and Comcast, although regional providers could apply as well.

So is this stimulus? Doesn't it seem like a (much-needed) long-term infrastructure project, basically underwriting telecom's costs to get them to build out in these areas? Besides the modest job growth in building, though, Brookings finds that 300,000 jobs are ultimarly created per percentage point growth in broadband penetration.

Even so, that's an investment in long-term job growth, not in immediate job creation. I'm all in favor of mixing these kinds of investments into the mix but the focus has to be on creating jobs in 2009.

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