Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday announced the first $183 million of an eventual $7.2 billion in government stimulus spending on broadband networks.
Speaking at a Dawsonville, Ga., manufacturing plant with Georgia governor Sonny Perdue, Biden announced a series of project across 17 states aimed at helping to bridge the digital divide, create jobs, and improve the economy in the many communities still lacking broadband access.
"New broadband access means more capacity and better reliability in rural areas and underserved urban communities around the country," Biden said in a speech at the plant. "Businesses will be able to improve their customer service and better compete around the world."
Data recently released by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development show that the United States ranks only 15th in the world in broadband penetration, falling behind other developed countries in Europe and Asia in recent years. The Federal Communications Commission is currently working on a national broadband plan.
The funding kicked off what will eventually be $7.2 billion in funding coming from the Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The funding covers several different categories, including $121.6 million to build out wider networks, $51.4 million in last-mile awards to connect homes and business to the community network infrastructure, $7.3 million to add computers and network capacities in schools and libraries, and $2.4 million to help increase demand for broadband in historically underserved communities.
The three biggest grants were all given to build out networks: $39.7 million to ION Hold for a fiber-optic network connecting 70 communities in New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont; $33.5 million to the North Georgia Network Cooperative for a 260-mile fiber-optic ring in the mountains of northern Georgia; and $25.4 million to Biddeford Internet for a 1,100 mile fiber-optic network serving rural and remote areas in Maine.