Further reinforcing the idea that a broadband stimulus may be happening sooner rather than later and that it will involve rural telcos, OPASTCO released a letter written to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid outlining their proposal in a white paper. This white paper, authored by the Digital Policy Institute, an independent think tank at Ball State University, suggests immediate build-out of a minimum of 25 Mb/s to 5.9 million rural homes as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan.
The DPI indicates this $28 Billion program could start in March of 2009 (assuming ARRP passes in January) and would represent 3.5% of the stimulus package, while providing 7% of the estimated job creation (200,000 jobs) of the stimulus plan. The plan is asking for one-time, build-out grants, as opposed to vouchers or similar mechanisms.
While it’s clear that the plan applies only to rural telcos which are USF high-cost recipients, it is not clear to what extent the telco would have to build out fiber (e.g. is it to the node or to the home – I infer to that it is fiber to the node, given the bandwidth). It is also not clear whether the funds would also include areas that are served by the Tier 1 telcos. This plan is definitely not as detailed as the Free Press proposal, but many of the elements appear to be very complementary to the Free Press plan.