Obama Signs Economic Stimulus Package

Posted at 3:50 p.m. ET

On the road in Denver, with a presidential desk to write on, Barack Obama Tuesday signed the economic stimulus package, saying, among other things, that the infrastructure investment, incuding in broadband, would create 400,000 jobs.

"There you go, it's done," he said to cheers from the Denver crowd.

He said that the broadband build-out will bring "critical broadband connections to businesses and homes in nearly every community in America."

There is $7.2 billion in the package for broadband grants to be administered by the National Telecommunications & Information Administration and the Agricultural Department, with a big assist from the FCC.

The FCC's biggest role, in addition to defining what qualifies as an unserved or underserved area in line for the money, will be to come up, within a year, with a plan to get broadband to everyone in the country.

The American Cable Association was quick to praise passage.

"ACA and its members understand more than anyone what it takes to provide high-speed Internet service in small markets and rural areas across the country; they have been doing it for years,” said ACA President Matthew M. Polka in a statement.  “Funding broadband programs will enable small and medium-sized cable operators, who have already invested significant private capital into their communities, to receive funds to invest in the infrastructure improvements necessary to offer more advanced broadband services."

The National Cable & Telecomunications Association seconded its praise from last week, when the Senate and House approved a compromise package, though with only 3 Republicans total—none in the House—approving it. NCTA says the investment will “will fuel our nation’s investment in technology to map, modernize and expand our broadband infrastructure, helping drive our economic recovery with new jobs, better educational opportunities, and more efficient access to healthcare. We look forward to working with policy makers at all levels to help extend the benefits of broadband to all Americans.”

The president did not take the occasion to discuss the the Feb. 17 date--the transition to digital-only for a quarter of the nation's TV stations--to plug the $650 million in the bill for the DTV-to-analog converter box coupon subsidies.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.