Intel recently submitted Comments to the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) regarding the $7.2B in broadband stimulus funding to be awarded over the next couple years. With more than a thousand comments to wade through, NTIA and RUS are expected to produce a Notice of Funds Availability in the next couple of months for their respective broadband stimulus programs under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA or the Act).
As a leading U.S. manufacturer and one of the Top 60 U.S. employers, Intel is committed to America’s global competitiveness, as well as the stimulative and long-term goals of the Act. Consistent with the ARRA’s purposes to stimulate jobs and invest in the long-term economic health of our nation, Intel recently announced that we will spend $7 billion over the next two years to build advanced manufacturing facilities in the U.S. – an investment that will support approximately 7,000 high wage, high-skill jobs in America.
Specific to broadband, Intel’s long-term goal aligns with the Obama Administration and Congress: Ubiquitous, high-quality, affordable broadband. Indeed, a significant part of Intel’s strategy involves utilizing our manufacturing and technology leadership to bridge the digital divide in the U.S. and around the world. Intel’s World Ahead program has spent years working to accelerate PC ownership and enable an incremental one billion people to access the Internet by 2012. This experience in fostering universal broadband and PC ownership enables us to provide unique insight as NTIA and RUS undertake the broadband stimulus initiatives in the ARRA.
A key take away from Intel’s World Ahead experience is that broadband deployment and adoption go hand-in-hand; one cannot serve its purpose without the other. In setting forth NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) funding, Congress aptly recognized that both broadband supply (deployment) and demand (adoption) are critical to bridging the digital divide. Studies by NCTA and Connected Nation report that a perceived lack of need for broadband and a lack of computer ownership are top barriers to broadband adoption in unserved and underserved areas. So we must solve the broadband demand issue in these digitally-deprived areas in order to address the ultimate goal of universal broadband adoption in America. How much will this cost? As a start, Intel recommends that NTIA and RUS consider awarding ~ $1 billion of the $7.2B in stimulus funding to projects that address broadband demand in. See pages 11-15 of Intel’s Comments.
On a related note, when establishing selection criteria for broadband stimulus awards, Intel believes that NTIA and RUS should apply technology-neutral criteria to evaluate competing applications based on the optimal mix of broadband capabilities (mobility and speed), cost (benefits versus costs over time and per-customer cost), and price advantages (subscription and equipment pricing). See pages 18-28 of Intel’s Comments. Based on this mix, the agencies can determine which applications best meet the broadband needs of the greatest population of users in the areas to be served and then invest taxpayer dollars accordingly.
In the end, return on investment of taxpayer dollars – as measured by increase in broadband usage and subscribership – will be the best indicator of the success of BTOP- and RUS-funded projects in moving unserved and underserved areas of the U.S. from Inter-not to Internet.