The $787 billion economic stimulus package U.S. President Obama recently signed into law includes $7.2 billion for broadband grant and loan programs. Under the bill, $4.7 billion of the funding will be distributed through the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which will use the money to fund broadband projects in all parts of the country, including rural, urban, and suburban areas. In addition, the legislation states that the NTIA can give grants to wireless providers, wireline providers, or any company offering to build last-mile, middle-mile, or long-haul facilities so long as that provider is the best company for serving a particular area's needs. The legislation also states that at least $200 million must be used to fund competitive grants for programs that encourage the adoption of sustainable broadband, while another $350 million must be used to fund the Broadband Data Improvement Act's efforts to develop a broadband inventory map and provide funding for certain grants. The remaining $2.5 billion will be distributed through the Agriculture Department's Rural Utilities Service to fund broadband projects in rural areas.
Supporters of universal broadband access said they were pleased with the funding provided by the stimulus package, though some expressed concern that the use of two separate federal agencies to distribute the money may not be the most efficient approach to funding broadband projects.
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