Biden announces ARRA funds for broadband

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Vice President Joe Biden announced the launch of $7.2 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds for a broadband grant and loan program during an appearance Thursday in Dawsonville, Ga. with Gov. Sonny Perdue.

There will be $2 billion made available on a rolling basis over the next 75 days to bring high-speed Internet to places where there is little or none available.

“New broadband access means more capacity and better reliability in rural areas and underserved urban communities around the country. Businesses will be able to improve their customer service and better compete around the world,” Vice President Biden said. “This is what the Recovery Act is all about – sparking new growth, tapping into the ingenuity of the American people and giving folks the tools they need to help build a new economy in the 21st-century.”

The funds will be distributed thusly: $4.7 billion through the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and $2.5 billion through the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS).

During an event at Dawsonville’s Impulse Manufacturing, Biden announced an initial $183 million investment in 18 broadband projects benefiting 17 states, which has already been matched by over $46 million in public and private sector capital.

“Broadband is the new dial tone of the 21st-century,” Gov, Perdue said. “Internet access is as important to our communications infrastructure today as reliable telephone service was a century ago. Creating an advanced network will promote economic development, expand educational opportunities, and improve the availability and efficiency of government services.”

The North Georgia Network Cooperative, Inc. received a $33.5 million grant with an additional $8.8 million in matching funds to deploy a 260-mile regional fiber-optic ring to deliver gigabit broadband speeds, reliability, affordability, and abundant interconnection points for last mile service in rural North Georgia.

The $7.2 billion are part of $100 billion ARRA is investing in science, technology, and innovation. The National Economic Council on Thursday released a report, “Recovery Act Investment in Broadband: Leveraging Federal Dollars to Create Jobs and Connect America,” which found that ARRA investments in broadband will create tens of thousands of jobs in the near term and expand opportunities and economic development in communities that would otherwise be left behind.

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