Wednesday, May 27, 2009

PA Licks Chops Over Potential Broadband Funds

More than seven billion federal stimulus dollars have been earmarked toward improving broadband access but there is still a big question mark over how to capture and spend the funds. Pennsylvania officials are coordinating with private companies in an effort to strengthen the commonwealth's funding application. Next month, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration will release the details on how states can apply for stimulus funding aimed at expanding high-speed Internet technology into rural and underserved regions. Pennsylvania Office of Administration Deputy Secretary Charles Brennan says a portion of that money will be used to encourage more people to use the web to its fullest potential. He says, “People think it's oh, just go out and surf the net. They see the kids surfing the net. But they don't understand that's where the jobs are. That's where the newspapers are. That's where the information is. That's where you apply for jobs.” “It's not about the Facebooks of the world. It could be about visiting museums around the world. You can go to the Louvre. You can go up to the Vatican now-I just read the Pope's going to have his own website. So there's a lot you can do with broadband,” says Brennan. Brennan says once Pennsylvania officials secure the federal funding, they'll hand out service contracts to private companies. Brennan recently met with communications professionals in Harrisburg, as part of a series of public informational meetings the Office of Administration and other agencies are holding to explain the broadband funding. It is still uncertain how the federal government should handout the money. Brennan says, “One of the questions that came up at the meeting is, would this be a block grant. Pennsylvania would actually prefer a block grant. Because we have one of the most elderly populations of any state. We also are one of the more rural states. So we think that if it was a block grant, we'd actually make out better.”

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