Friday, July 2, 2010

Obama Announces $795 Million in 66 Round 2 Broadband Stimulus Awards 07/02/2010 Boston - President Obama today announced award of the first 66 broadband stimulus projects, with a total of $795 million in grants and loans, under Round 2 of the $7.2 billion Recovery Act program.

According to a White House press statement, the projects "will not only directly create approximately 5,000 jobs up front, but will also help spur economic development in some of the nation’s hardest-hit communities, helping create jobs for years to come."

The White House release stated that the 66 projects will support "tens of millions of Americans and over 685,000 businesses, 900 healthcare facilities and 2,400 schools in all fifty states" with high speed broadband services.  The federal grants and loans administered by the "Departments of Commerce and Agriculture have been matched by over $200 million in outside investment, for a total public-private investment of more than $1 billion in bringing broadband service to these communities, most of which currently have little or no access."

White House Iterates Positive Broadband Impacts
The White House background materials for the announcement referenced the "analysis released by the National Economic Council last year",  which concluded that "overall Recovery Act investments in broadband are expected to create tens of thousands of jobs in the near term and expand economic development and job opportunities in communities that would otherwise be left behind in the new knowledge-based economy".   The Council's reporting was first released on December 17, 2009 as Vice President Joe Biden announced the first Round 1 broadband awards in rural Georgia. 

"With new or increased broadband access," continued the statement "communities can compete on a level playing field to attract new businesses, schools can create distance learning opportunities, medical professionals can provide cost-efficient remote diagnoses and care, and business owners can expand the market for their products beyond their neighborhoods to better compete in the global economy."

White House Project Numbers Are Inaccurate
The White House press statement contained several numerical inaccuracies about the awards issued to date within the broadband stimulus program.

With the 66 projects announced today and the 150 projects announced in Round 1, a total of 216 broadband applications have been given the status of awarded projects.    With today's announcement of $795 million in grants and loans, the 2 agencies managing the program have together issued a total of $3.070 billion in awards.  These figures are based on our tracking of awards, and confirmed by reporting by the Congressional Research Service

The White House written statement incorrectly states "With the awards being announced tomorrow, more than $2.7 billion in Recovery Act broadband grants and loans will have been awarded to more than 260 projects across the country since December 2009."  Additionally, we believe the $795 million summary figure is some $27 million higher than the total of awards listed in the Award Roster document (below) also released by the White House today.  The White House release created further confusion as it carried today's date, but referenced the broadband announcement of the President of "tomorrow." 

We believe the obvious poor staff work that supported the President as he made the announcement is an indicator of the rushed manner in which the first award group was released.  Senior Administration officials decided to make the award statement today in response to pressure from Democratic Members of Congress that the award and payment 'draw down' cycles of the program continue to lag.   The vote of the full U.S. House during Thursday to rescind $602 million in broadband stimulus funds is the clearest signal of the pressures on the Administration and on the 2 line agencies administering the program.    

A roster of the broadband awards announced by the President are attached, via StimulatingBroadband on Scribd: 

Broadband Award Roster of July 2, 2010
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