Vilsack, Biden & Locke announce another $1.8 bil investment in broadband expansion

By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, Aug. 18 – In announcing another $1.8 billion in Recovery Act funding for broadband, Agriculture Sec. Tom Vilsack said Wednesday that “This country can't afford to have a digital divide. We already have significant challenges in rural America in terms of equity of opportunity. Failure to connect rural America to 21st century technology now will really make it much more difficult for farmers and ranchers and small business owners to have any connection to the 21st century economy.”

Vilsack also explained that a major investment in extending high-speed internet services throughout the country is essential because “we are now engaged in an economic competition with the rest of the world and unfortunately, the United States lags behind, significantly behind a number of Asian countries in particular in terms of investment and the capacity of this 21st century technology which puts us at a serious competitive disadvantage in the global marketplace.”

Noting that the $1.8 billion is part of the administration’s nearly $7 billion Recovery Act broadband initiative, Vice President Joe Biden said that “Today's investment in broadband technology will create jobs across the country and expand opportunities for millions of Americans and American companies. In addition to bringing 21st century infrastructure to underserved communities and rural areas, these investments will begin to harness the power of broadband to improve education, health care, and public safety. The awards are another great example of how the Recovery Act is creating jobs upfront, while also building a foundation for sustainable job creation and global competitiveness.”

Jared Bernstein, Chief Economist to the Vice President, explained that broadband investment is needed as part of “accelerating the pace of this recovery.” He said that “in moving from recession to recovery, consumers play a critical role, but in moving from recovery to a more accelerated, dynamic recovery . . . the investment agenda is critical. In fact, historically, that's how recoveries shift into a higher gear.” He pointed out that Recovery Act investments in broadband, clean energy, advanced batteries and high-speed rail are unleashing large amounts of private capital that otherwise would remain “sitting on the sidelines.”

Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke highlighted the broadband initiative's positive effect on job creation thanks to “the building out of this infrastructure, 25,000 new miles of broadband infrastructure, from fiber optic cable that has to be put in trenches, to stringing up wires on utility poles, to building wireless transmission towers.” He said that expanding broadband into unserved and underserved areas is essential, whether for businesses seeking to market their products or break into new markets, or for students, or for hospitals and other healthcare and public safety services.

Locke concluded that “We're seeing that without this high-speed internet investment by the federal government, so many of the for-profit, independent internet service providers don't find it economic to go into these regions and so this is really very much about job creation and helping businesses throughout America be more competitive, stronger and more viable.”

To read the complete list of 94 Recovery Act broadband grant awards in 37 states announced Wednesday, go to:

More information about USDA's and the Commerce Department's Recovery Act efforts is available at For information on the federal government's Recovery Act investents, go to:

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