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Snowe Introduces Amendments To Senate's Economic Stimulus Package

Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) has introduced a couple of amendments to the Senate verison of the economic stimulus package that, among other things, boosts tax credits and ensures private companies, not just public-private partnerships, qualify for broadband build-out grants and makes sure NTIA spreads the money around.

The amendments would boost the tax credit from for investment in next generation equipment from 20% to 30%, and for current generation equipment from 10% to 20% in underserved areas and from 20% to 30% in unserved areas.

It also adds a new 25% tax credit for investment in "intermediadate" service of 50 mbps downstream and 5 Mbps upstream (the bill defines unserved as no wireline broadband and underserved areas as ones with no more than one service offering 5 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream.

Snowe's amendments also directs the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, which would administer the broadband grant program, to "seek to promote economic opportunity, avoid excessive concentration of service, and disseminate grants among a wide variety of applicants."

The amendments are supported by Republican Senators Charles Grassley of Iowa and Michael Enzi of Wyoming.

The Obama administration has made universal broadband one of the keys to his economic stimulus package, though the sums being set aside for grants and tax breaks (6 billion in the already-passed House version, $9 billion in the Senate, something of a drop in the $800 billion-plus bucket.

The cable industry is happy to get help with its broadband push, but wants the money to go primarily to unserved areas rather than ones that already have some form of broadband service. It is also concerned that mandatory speeds might favor the telco competition.