The first awards under the broadband element of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act-aka the stimulus package-were made today by Vice President Biden at a metal fabrication plan in Dawsonville, Ga.
The Christian Science Monitor reports that Biden will announce awards totaling $182 million to 18 projects in 17 states. The investments will go toward connecting local communities to the Internet. The story says the $7 billion for broadband in the stimulus will be divided between physical deployments ($2.5 billion) and help in enabling people to make use of the new infrastructure ($4.5 billion).
This is, of course, a milestone. There is a tremendous amount of controversy surrounding the stimulus overall, and the cumbersome nature of the broadband awards process and uncertainty over changes necessary to make it work better. However, in less than a year, the administration announced the strategy, won Congressional passage, chose winners, and gave out the money. It wasn't pretty, but governing rarely is.
On a related note, yesterday -- sixty days before its national broadband plan was due to be delivered to Congress -- the Federal Communications Commission provided insight into what the plan may look like. Ars Technica was among the sites reporting on the sneak preview. The site said that, among many other things, the plan likely will call for the use of the Universal Service Fund to fill holes in broadband coverage, rework the CableCARD software program and address spectrum shortages.
Any big goal requiring government involvement-revamping health care, regulating Wall Street or providing national broadband-will proceed in fits and starts. At key points in the long process, it is wise to step back and recognize that, one way or another, the process is moving-or lurching-forward. Clearly, there are problems in the process. However, there is no doubt that today at least 18 groups in 17 states likely agree that the system is working pretty well.