Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal had a good article on the prospects for a near-term broadband stimulus plan. The article referenced a Free Press proposal for a 3 year, $44 Billion broadband stimulus plan. This plan just might have a chance, as it has elements that equipment vendors could embrace and incumbent carriers would like. For instance, the plan ties closely to OPASTCO’s point that there is an intrinsic link between video and broadband deployment.
Like the rest of the proposed economic stimulus, it is something that the advocates are trying to push through in short order. This might actually happen, because one of the incentives they are advocating is the creation of a Broadband Infrastructure Fund, as recommended to the FCC by the Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service, to provide direct grants of $15 Billion (broadband fund) and $5 Billion (mobility fund). These funds would be administered by NTIA/USAC, so, potentially, a new bureaucracy would not have to be created (just expanded).
Free Press is also advocating other programs to encourage broadband deployment, which include accelerated depreciation and tax credits. They are also suggesting the “lifeline” programs be extended to broadband, which could mean things like $10 per month subsidies for low-income homes and subsidies for devices that access the Internet.
Their plan is heavily oriented to solving the digital divide between rural and urban areas. They suggest a minimum of 5 Mb/s down/upstream speeds (specifically to ensure transmission of H.D. video) with incentives to ensure the network can evolve to 100 Mb/s. In general, they are advocating FTTH, as it drives more short-term job creation while providing a better infrastructure for driving long-term economic growth and creating, “Desired social outcomes.”
It will be an interesting first quarter of 2009.