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Senate Passes Stimulus Package With Reduced Broadband Outlays

By: John Eggerton, Multichannel News

The Senate has just passed the economic stimulus package, which wound up cutting broadband expenditures from $9 billion to $7 billion.

That means the $650 million to unclog the DTV-to-analog converter box program has taken one step closer to being a reality.

DollarsBut it is not a done deal yet. Now, the Senate version must be conferenced with the House version to reconcile the many differences. But both the House and Senate versions set aside the money that will be needed put teeth into the vote last week to move the DTV hard date to June 12.

Also remaining in the bill is money for grant programs and tax credits being put toward the rollout of broadband. The Senate version has $7 billion, down from $9 billion initiallly. The House version has $6 billion.
Rep. Zack Space (D-Ohio), a member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, and 29 other representative have written to the Democratic leaders of the House and Senate calling on them to preserve the broadband funding.

"As Congress works to finalize this recovery package to revive our nation's struggling economy, we request that the final legislation maintain provisions that would support improved access to broadband internet," they wrote. "President Obama has repeatedly announced his support for such provisions, and we ask that you join him in creating final legislation that will enhance access to this critical service."
Space is pushing for the Senate's $7 billion figure, arguing that it is "vital to his region's economy," said a spokesman. The letter was prompted by some concern that the broadband provisions could be viewed as expendable in the final bill, according to a Hill source.


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