Senate Approves $7 Billion for Broadband

The Senate today passed its version of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan, legislation that allocates $7 billion toward broadband stimulus, along with another $831 billion for other projects and tax cuts.

The House passed a similar and somewhat smaller version last month. Both bills place openness conditions on new broadband networks to be developed with public dollars.

"We are pleased that both bills recognize the central role broadband will play in putting us on the road to economic recovery," said Ben Scott, policy director of Free Press, a nonpartisan group that advocates for, among other things, universal access to communications, in a statement today. "As Congress moves forward with this critical legislation, the openness, accountability, and public-service provisions approved by both the House and the Senate must remain."

The two bills, which are roughly $19 billion apart, are now headed into conference committee for reconciliation. The President has said that he wants a final draft of the legislation enrolled and on his desk by Monday morning, an ambitious deadline given the staunch differences, found even among supporters of the bills.

Broadband allocations are not among the most hotly contested elements, which include education spending (in particular school construction projects), and tax cuts versus direct spending. The Senate’s $838 billion economic rescue plan amounts to almost six percent of U.S. gross domestic product and to about 25% of the total federal budget. The House plan passed late last month at $819 billion.

Senator Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska) who joined with one of Maine’s Republican Senators, Susan Collins, to co-author the compromised version of the bill that was approved by a vote of 61-37 today, said Monday on the Senate floor, “The $110 billion leaner spending side of the plan will fuel, save, and create jobs in towns, townships, and cities across America. It still provides robust support for infrastructure projects that will fix and build roads, bridges, highways, and sewer systems. It will improve community health centers, refurbish child care centers, extend broadband Internet service, and repair housing. Those upgrades will leave a lasting legacy long beyond the terms of the legislation.”

Article courtesy of Wi-Fi Planet.