Obama to expand broadband Internet across U.S.

McClatchy NewspapersJuly 2, 2010 

WASHINGTON — More than a year after Congress passed the economic stimulus package, President Barack Obama announced that $795 million of that money will go toward expanding Internet access across the country to provide jobs and improve communication.

Obama's plan, announced Friday, will allocate more than $1 billion for installing broadband Internet across the country.

About $800 million of that will come from the tax-sponsored stimulus package, while the rest comes from outside investment.

"We're competing aggressively to make sure the jobs and industries and the markets of tomorrow take root right here in the United States," the president said. "We're moving forward. And to every American who is looking for work, I promise you, we are going to keep on doing everything that we can."

The plan will create 66 infrastructure projects across the country and more than 5,000 temporary jobs, Obama said. It also will benefit more than 685,000 businesses, 900 health care facilities and 2,400 schools.

The money is part of $7.2 billion in the stimulus that was set aside to expand broadband Internet access.

While the president emphasized job creation Friday in his Internet proposal, he also described new statistics on employment for June as the sixth straight month of job growth despite the phasing out of census jobs.

Economists, however, see the June jobs data as disappointing for their small increase in private-sector jobs and a larger-than-expected increase in discouraged jobless who dropped out of the job market. Total U.S. payrolls were down by 125,000 jobs in June, but the private sector expanded by 83,000 jobs.

"We are headed in the right direction," the president said. "But, as I was reminded on a trip to Racine, Wisconsin, earlier this week, we're not headed there fast enough for a lot of Americans."

The state that's slated to get the most money under the plan is Iowa, which will receive about $90 million (although it will share about $20 million of that with Missouri), almost double what the second-ranked state, Georgia, is to receive.

Obama highlighted how the broadband allocation will benefit education, the environment and doctor-patient communication.

"Recovery Act broadband projects help bring down the cost of private investment, attract Internet service providers to new areas, improve digital literacy among students and workers, and help create new opportunities in employment, education and entrepreneurship by wiring homes and businesses," according to an analysis that the National Economic Council released last year.

The stimulus package, enacted in February 2009, allocated $787 billion to create jobs, increase cash flow and revitalize the economy amid the recession. Only three Republicans in Congress voted for the measure.

On Monday, the president announced a separate plan to increase spectrum levels in order to make wireless broadband connection to the Internet more accessible.

"Once we emerge from the immediate crisis, the long-term economic gains to communities that have been left behind in a digital age will be immeasurable," the president said Friday.


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Check out McClatchy's politics blog: Planet Washington

McClatchy Newspapers 2010

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