[washington post] The Obama administration named 18 projects Thursday that would receive a portion of the $7.4 billion in stimulus funds set aside to bring high-speed Internet to poor and rural areas that have been overlooked by Internet service providers.
Analysts say the first batch of funds suggests the federal government is targeting "middle mile" projects that may not bring lines directly to the home, but could have even greater impact by connecting entire communities that have been off the Internet grid. Bringing pipes into homes aren't always as helpful, some say, if those homes aren't connected to the Internet pipelines that connect their communities to the rest of the nation.
"Clearly the administration is viewing the middle mile as a way to have a multiplier effect on broadband distribution," said Paul Gallant, an analyst at Concept Capital in the District. "In some cases, that the is biggest choke point preventing broadband deployment to rural areas."
Indeed, of the $183 million in grants announced Thursday, $121 million go to middle-mile projects. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration and Department of Agriculture said they would give $51.4 million in grants that would directly connect homes, hospitals and schools in Minneapolis; Spokane, Wash.; and Boston. The New Mexico State Library will get $1.46 million for a project to give Hispanics and Native Americans in 15 communities training on how to use the Web, particularly for Spanish, Navajo and Pueblo-speaking populations.
Vice President Biden announced the awards during a speech in Dawsonville, Ga. The government plans to distribute about $2 billion over the next 2 1/2 months. The remainder of the $7.4 billion has been spent on mapping projects or will be distributed in a final round of grants in coming months.
$7.4 billion in stimulus projects to extend broadband to poor and rural areas