Putting Schools At the Head of the Line For Broadband Funds

Posted by Paula Boyd
Regulatory Counsel

Earlier today, Vice President Joe Biden and other senior government leaders visited the Seneca High School gym in Wattsburg, Pa., to talk about the Obama administration’s work to expand broadband capacity in rural America, particularly through $7.2 billion in stimulus funds approved by Congress earlier this year. In the parlance of the tech business we might call this ‘evangelizing,’ but members of smaller communities throughout the country already know well the importance of broadband. “We get to show other rural areas the benefits of faster connections with the Internet,” Seneca School Board President Joe Walko told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

At Microsoft, we agree that schools at all levels are an important focal point of broadband access for both rural and urban communities, and we believe they should be prioritized along with libraries, hospitals and health clinics for broadband stimulus funds. Microsoft is a member of the “Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition” – which includes representatives of educational and health care facilities, public interest groups and other private firms – whose mission is to improve the availability of high-capacity broadband at these institutions that anchor communities across America.

We applaud Vice President Biden and the other officials who took part in today’s event – including Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski, and Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper (D-PA) – for highlighting the importance of expanding broadband capacity. We also applaud the administration for taking concrete action to make available the first $4 billion of broadband stimulus funds by issuing its Notice of Funds Availability and soliciting loan and grant applications.  We look forward to continuing to work with the administration and Congress to bring the benefits of high capacity broadband to these very important anchor institutions and to all corners of the country.

[UPDATE: July 2,2009 - 8:40 a.m. Pacific:  This post has been corrected to reflect that the initial allocation of broadband funds announced by the White House July 1 was $4 billion, not $4.7 billion]

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