A broad coalition of telecommunications companies and organizations has called upon President-elect Barack Obama to prioritize broadband deployment and stimulate investment in broadband services. This large coalition – which includes AT&T, Verizon, Google, Alcatel-Lucent, organizations representing the cable and wireless industries, organizations representing state and local governments, as well as consumer groups – emphasizes both infrastructure deployment and demand stimulation to foster broadband investment, adoption and utilization. Specifically, the coalition advocates, among other things, expanding the coverage of broadband networks to areas where there are currently none, obtaining higher speed connections in areas where networks already exist, and providing subsidies to low-income individuals to purchase a computer or pay for a broadband connection. To achieve these objectives, the group favors tax incentives, grants, low-cost loans and loan guarantees, and universal service subsidies.
President-elect Obama has already made clear that he intends to make broadband deployment a priority. In his December 6th radio address, the President-elect announced plans to make substantial new investments in national infrastructure to stimulate the economy, including funds to increase broadband availability. The Obama Transition also has indicated that it will look at reforming the Universal Service Fund, making better use of the nation’s wireless spectrum, promoting next-generation facilities, technologies and applications, and providing new tax and loan incentives as means by which to encourage the deployment of next generation broadband. While specific details of the proposed stimulus package have not yet been made public, it is likely to include some, if not all, of these initiatives. Recent meetings with a wide range of telecommunications companies also suggest that President-elect Obama’s Transition Team will consider input from the telecom industry in determining which measures will be included in the stimulus package.
With Congress expected to pass a large economic stimulus package in early 2009, broadband deployment appears likely to get a boost from any legislation ultimately adopted. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is taking the lead on the stimulus package in Congress, has signaled her support for action on broadband deployment. This support in Congress, coupled with the support of the incoming administration and the telecommunications industry in general, means that investment in broadband is likely to be part of any stimulus funding approved in the coming year.