Philadelphia Inquirer blogger and columnist Joseph N. DiStefano provides an update on stimulus funding for underserved areas in Pennsylvania. Recently, Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell (D) has been advocating the importance of spending on infrastructure as a way to fast track economic development in the United States.
On February 17, 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law a $787 billion stimulus package which included $7.2 billion for broadband development and deployment. Funding is scheduled for exhaustion by 30 September 2010.
The White House today announced another $1.8 billion in subsidies to dozens of high-speed broadband Internet projects around the country for “underserved communities,” including two Pennsylvania systems:
- $36.4 million to Keystone Wireless LLC, “to offer 3G broadband service in central
Pennsylvania['s] Centre, Lycoming, Union, Northumberland, Snyder, Clinton, Schuylkill, Berks, and Mountour counties. Approximately 963,820 people stand to benefit, as do roughly
26,882 businesses and 9,035 community institutions.”
- $0.8 million to DOC Wireless Neighborhoods PA, “to provide enhanced Internet access and
online tools to predominantly low-income communities in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The project plans to deploy 160 new public workstations at four new computer centers in the city.”
Nothing, this time, for city networks in Philadelphia that applied for grants. Why the farm-country focus? While the government is giving money “to build out the Internet infrastructure primarily in rural parts, we are (also) financing numerous computing centers… in the urban areas,” where companies like Comcast and Verizon already do “provide the service,” US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke told me in a conference call.
“In the urban areas there generally is not as high a level of need for new [broadband] construction,” Jared Bernstein, chief economist to Vice President Biden, told me. Because private companies (like Comcast and Verizon) have already built it and sell it for a fee, Instead, the government hopes to be “educating consumers” about what they can do with private high-speed broadband, while also “providing public centers for people who cannot afford to have a computer in their home.”