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Arizona Gets Nearly $16 Million to Expand High-Speed Internet Service

In March the Federal Communications Commission released its 377-page National Broadband Plan, outlining telecommunications policies that would "advance consumer welfare, civic participation, public safety and homeland security, community development, health care delivery, energy independence and efficiency, education, worker training, private sector investment, entrepreneurial activity, job creation and economic growth, and other national purposes."

The federal government has clearly put a lot of stock in the power of broadband.  The FCC called it "the great infrastructure challenge of the early 21st century."  In an effort to meet that challenge, and to create jobs, the stimulus bill Congress passed last year allocated $7.2 billion to bringing high-speed Internet access to unserved (and under-served) areas.  The week before last the President announced his latest round of grants, $795 million for 66 projects expected to create 5,000 new jobs.

And, perhaps more importantly, the grant money will bring high-speed Internet service to areas that were previously served only by dial-up (or not served at all).  It's easy to sound flippant about that, but widespread (if not universal) access to broadband is really important.  In a blog post a few months ago I mentioned a Brookings Institution study, which revealed that:

  • "Digital infrastructure is vital to long-term economic, social, and civic development. Similar to highways, bridges, and dams, broadband and wireless represent infrastructures that make it possible for businesses to stay connected, innovate, and create jobs."
  • "A study of 120 nations between 1980 and 2006 undertaken by Qiang (2009b) estimates that each 10 percentage point increase in broadband penetration adds 1.3 percent to a high income country's gross domestic product and 1.21 percent for low to middle-income nations."

The FCC estimates that only 4 percent of Americans don't have any access to broadband, so we won't get the full 1.3 percent GDP boost, but any kind of boost sounds really good right about now.

In Arizona it's difficult to know exactly who does and doesn't have access to broadband services.  In the infrastructure study the AIC sponsored the year before last, analysts from the Seidman Institute estimated that 3-4 percent of the state's population may not have high-speed Internet access - many of those people in the state's Indian communities.  

So it makes sense that much of the federal government's grant money in this latest round of donations went to bring high-speed Internet to those areas.  The grants, according to the White House Broadband Award Roster, include:

  • $10.5 million to San Carlos Apache Telecommunications, Inc. to provide fiber-to-the-premise (FTTP) service to the San Carlos Apache Reservation in Arizona. Over 6,000 people, 20 businesses, and 50 community institutions - including emergency service personnel, a hospital and facilities that are currently unserved - stand to benefit. The project will drive job creation upfront, and create a stable foundation for future growth.
  • $3.6 million to Hopi Telecommunications, Inc. (HTI) to connect Jeddito, AZ with existing broadband infrastructure more than 60 miles away.  In addition, HTI will connect currently unserved residents of Jeddito and Spider Mound. In addition to the jobs the project will create upfront, over 7,000 individuals stand to benefit, as do dozens of businesses and more than 20 community institutions.
  • $1.6 million (with an additional $706,000 applicant-provided match) to the Arizona Office of Economic Recovery to expand computer centers at 28 state and tribal libraries and to provide specialized virtual workforce workstations at 200 locations throughout the state.

The government has also granted $62.5 million (with an additional $34.3 million applicant-provided match) to the University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development to interconnect more than 30 existing research and educational networks, creating a nation-wide high-capacity network that will enable advanced networking features for more than 100,000 essential community anchor institutions. The project is dubbed the United States Unified Community Anchor Network (U.S. UCAN).

In an environment in which 9.5 percent unemployment has become the norm, anything that removes a barrier to job creation is welcome.  According to analysis released last year by the National Economic Council, Recovery Act broadband projects do just that, by helping "bring down the cost of private investment, attract Internet service providers to new areas, improve digital literacy among students and workers, and help create new opportunities in employment, education and entrepreneurship by wiring homes and businesses."

As the president said as he announced the 66 most recent broadband grants, "Once we emerge from the immediate crisis, the long-term economic gains to communities that have been left behind in a digital age will be immeasurable."

What's your take?  Write a comment below - no registration required.


Written on Wednesday, 14 July 2010 13:44 by Gary Yaquinto

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