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Commerce Secretary Locke Highlights Recovery Act Initiative to Bring Broadband, Jobs to Urban and Rural America

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

CONTACT OFFICE OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS

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Commerce Secretary Locke Highlights Recovery Act Initiative to Bring Broadband, Jobs to Urban and Rural America

Visit Follows Vice President Biden’s Announcement of $4 Billion in Recovery Act Loans and Grants to Increase Broadband Access and Adoption

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke addressed the importance of increasing broadband service and adoption—especially in U.S. urban areas—to stimulate job creation and economic growth today at the Ashbury Senior Computer Community Center in Cleveland, Ohio. Locke’s visit followed Vice President Biden’s announcement earlier today of the availability of $4 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act loans and grants to help bring broadband service to unserved and underserved communities across America.

This is the first round of Recovery Act funding aimed at expanding broadband access to help bridge the technological divide and create jobs building out Internet infrastructure. Locke was joined today by Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski and Ohio Lt. Governor Lee Fisher.

“Too many communities across America are stuck with a 20th Century information infrastructure that leaves them ill-equipped to compete in a global, 21st Century economy,” Locke said. “This initiative will reach the last frontiers of America’s information landscape, and the investments we make in places like Cleveland – will spur innovation and pave the way for private capital to follow.”

Earlier today, Locke joined Vice President Biden, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and FCC Chair Julius Genakowski at a high school in Wattsburg, Pennsylvania, the first stop on the administration’s National Rural Tour.

The Recovery Act provided a total of $7.2 billion to the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service (RUS) to accelerate broadband deployment in areas of the country that have been without the high-speed infrastructure. Of that funding, NTIA will use $4.7 billion to deploy broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas in the United States, expand public computer center capacity and encourage sustainable adoption of broadband service. RUS will invest $2.5 billion to facilitate broadband deployment in rural communities.

“Expanding broadband access to underserved communities is an issue of equality and fairness,” Locke added. “Having access to the Internet’s economic, health and educational benefits should be as much of a fundamental American right as attending a quality school or feeling safe when you walk down the street.”

NTIA and RUS will be accepting applications for loans, grants and loan/grant combinations to be awarded under a single application form. This collaborative approach will ensure that the agencies' activities are complementary and integrated, make the best use of taxpayer funds and make it easier for applicants to apply for funding. This is the first of three rounds of funding the Agriculture and Commerce Departments will provide.

Vice President Biden also announced today that Commerce and USDA officials will host public workshops in July to share information about the funding availabilities and the application process. Forums will be held in Boston, Mass.; Charleston, W.Va.; Minneapolis, Minn.; Memphis, Tenn.; Lonoke, Ark.; Birmingham, Ala.; Billings, Mont.; Albuquerque, N.M.; and Los Angeles, Calif.

The complete details of this Notice of Funding Availability are available at http://www.broadbandusa.gov.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was signed into law by President Obama on February 17, 2009. It is designed to jumpstart the nation's economy, create or save millions of jobs, and put a down payment on addressing long-neglected challenges so our country can thrive in the 21st century. The act includes measures to modernize our nation's infrastructure, enhance energy independence, expand educational opportunities, preserve and improve affordable health care, provide tax relief and protect those in greatest need.

More information about efforts regarding the Recovery Act is available at www.usda.gov/recovery and www.recovery.gov.