Posted By: Adrian Herbst, The Baller Herbst Law Group, P.C.
On Monday, January 26, 2009 HR 1 was introduced to the 111th Congress. This Bill as an Act is cited as the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009” (“Act”). For the full text connect to: http://www.rules.house.gov/111/LegText/111_hr1_text.pdf. For a summary of the broadband portion of the Act prepared by the Committee on Energy and Commerce, connect to: http://energycommerce.house.gov/images/stories/Documents/Markups/PDF/broadband%20stimulus%20language%20%28ec%29.pdf. Although the Act contains numerous provisions, with over 650 pages, and titles of importance to state and local governments, this article briefly describes the part of the Act which provides for broadband stimulus, including $6 billion for infrastructure development.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (“NTIA”) is directed to create a national “broadband inventory map” that identifies the geographic extent to which broadband service capability is available. In addition, it includes the requirement that the NTIA establish “wireless and broadband grant programs.” The purpose is to provide for a comprehensive nation‑wide inventory of existing broadband and to establish grants that will stimulate the development of broadband infrastructure for economic development and the availability of wired and wireless broadband throughout the country. The needs and priorities will be identified by each state and at least one grant must be available in each state. The following provides a brief summary of grant funding and purposes:
· Grants will be available for rural open access broadband with 50% to be awarded no later than September 30, 2009.
· Grants for wireless deployment and broadband deployment for the development of basic broadband service and advanced broadband service capabilities.
· Grants to fund state broadband tracking initiatives; with the NTIA, to develop and maintain broadband inventory maps of the United States.
· Grants for wireline to be split 75% for advanced broadband in underserved areas and 25% for basic broadband in unserved areas.
· Grants for wireless to be split 75% for advanced broadband in underserved areas and 25% for basic wireless in unserved areas.
The Act requires the FCC to define in much greater detail the meaning of “unserved” and “underserved” areas. This should not be construed as limiting the extent of the grant program and, by way of example, NATOA has developed a list of projects that can be initiated in a matter of months, and completed within approximately two years. For the NATOA list connect to: http://www.natoa.org/policy-advocacy/documents/NATOACBBexamples.pdf.
It is important for state and local governments to begin to think about the importance of the Act and the broadband portion and identify state and local priorities. The time periods under the Act for submitting grant requests will, as currently written in the Act, be somewhat short as it is very clear that the intention is for fast action to enable rapid economic recovery. Further, the Obama administration has made it clear that this Act and the stimulus and economic recovery programs to be initiated by the Obama administration are absolutely essential for our national recovery, including jobs creation and business stimulation. This Obama administration has sent a clear message to Congress of the importance of taking action at an early date. An understanding of the Act and its relationship to state and local governments requires prompt attention to state and local government plans, and goals for economic development and improvement will be ready for submittal of an application for participation in the wireless and broadband grant programs.
There have been numerous articles regarding economic stimulus programs and the goals and policies of the new Obama administration. While the Obama administration has made it clear that this Act, and in particular the broadband portions of the Act briefly outlined above, are a good start, they do not meet the full extent of the administration’s goals for infrastructure development necessary for economic recovery as well as advancing the state of broadband capabilities throughout the country.
Our purpose in writing this brief overview of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is to bring to the attention of IMLA members and local officials the importance of the Act for state and local governments and to set the stage for subsequent articles about this Act that we will include as postings to the IMLA Blog as the Act winds its way through Congress and its ultimate passage.