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Broadband Stimulus Bill Light on Satellite Opportunities

By | February 3, 2009
      [Satellite News 02-03-09] In its current form, President Obama’s nearly $6 billion proposed Broadband Stimulus Bill mentions satellite applications only twice in its 258 pages.
          The first mention of satellite comes as an order to provide $600 million to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for “procurement, acquisition and construction” of satellite development for climate sensors, climate-modeling capacity and establishing climate data records. The second mentions the use of satellite as an option to deliver distance-learning programs via broadband.
          In the first session of the 111th U.S. Congress, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee presented a rough draft of the bill, which allots $2.8 billion for loans, loan guarantees and grants to be administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture‘s rural utilities service distance learning, telemedicine and broadband program.
          Another $2.8 billion will be designated for wireless and broadband deployment grant programs to be administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) within the U.S. Department of Commerce. NTIA will be instructed to use $250 million to provide underserved areas with voice services and $750 million be for advanced wireless broadband data services with download speeds of 3 megabits per second (Mbps) and 1 Mbps for upload. The remaining $1.8 billion also will be split up for different service uses.
          Within the terms of this split, the U.S. also defines and updates the definition of “basic” and “advanced” services. Providers of basic broadband service (5 Mbps down, 1 Mbps up) are eligible to receive 25 percent of that amount, while providers of advanced services (45 Mbps down, 15 Mbps up) will have access to 75 percent of the funding.
          The U.S. Senate version of the bill has upped the ante to $9 billion, increasing funding portions across the board. The Senate version also gives carriers a 10 percent tax credit for building out “basic” high-speed Internet and a 20 percent credit for advanced.
          Services are to be provided on an "open access basis" defined by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) within 45 days of enactment and adhere to the FCC’s August 2005 statement of principles on net neutrality. The funding comes with conditions. State governments are required to provide a report to NTIA indicating which geographic areas of the state should be considered to have the greatest priority for service. These areas cannot represent, in aggregate, more than 20 percent of the state population or geographic area.
          In December, a group of telecoms comprised of AT&T, Google and satellite competitor Verizon, lobbied U.S. Congress will a call to action for a comprehensive national broadband strategy. Satellite platforms and delivery services were left out of the submitted document.
          Details of qualifications for funding under the broadband stimulus package are still being negotiated.  In a statement released Dec. 15, NTIA argued that providers of satellite broadband infrastructure should receive tax benefits associated with particular service capabilities.
          “A national, ubiquitous broadband infrastructure has four critical and complementary components: fixed broadband, wireless broadband, satellite broadband and broadband core and backbone transport,” TIA president Grant Seiffert said. “Thus, a plan to stimulate investment in broadband and truly build this key national digital infrastructure across the U.S. needs to incorporate all four of these elements.”

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