It’s hard to believe that two years have flown by since our economy was on the verge of collapse in December 2008. The news at that time was all about Goldman Sachs, AIG and General Motors. Congress scrambled to put together a stimulus package, and we’ve all been stuck in endless cone zones ever since, stemming from the stimulus of road construction. Grrrr.
Part of that mega-billion-dollar stimulus legislation included $7.2 billion in broadband earmarks. I remember the nay-sayers in early 2009 saying: 1) $7 billion is just chump change and 2) the agencies tasked with distributing this money will never be able to do it in a fair and timely fashion.
But after following the broadband stimulus for the last couple of years, I think the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utility Services (RUS) actually have done a pretty good job. Maybe these government agencies learned what journalists have always known: there’s nothing like a short deadline to make something happen.
After quickly gathering information and public comment to develop a broadband investment strategy, the money started flowing in the form of grants and loans in December 2009. The early grants often focused on middle-mile projects, and this seems to me like an area that needed some investment.
First-mile providers connect to the Internet backbone with super-high-speed fiber-optic infrastructure. And such last-mile providers as MSOs and telcos connect to people’s homes. But there was a lack of incentive for private investment in the middle mile, according to J.D. Sherman, CFO at Akamai Technologies. For more, see "CDNs Bridge First and Last Miles: Online video stresses the ‘Middle mile.’"
After the first trickle of money was released, the grants and awards became a steady stream. CT published the award announcements between December 2009 and September 2010. (For more, click here).
Perusing the announcements to see where all the money went, I discovered lots of rural telephone companies received money for fiber builds; Native American groups got awards; funds were provided for public libraries and education centers; municipalities took some of the money; wireless operators snagged funds; and even a few cable operators shared in the pie.
Now that the money has been distributed, CT’s getting announcements about the new projects being constructed with the stimulus funds – “so and so’s building a new fiber-to-the premise (FTTP) network, using such-and-such vendor.”
Considering how integral the Internet has become to the lifestyles and business opportunities of Americans, I think all these investments are going to be a good thing.