Thursday, December 17, 2009

VP: Let's 'revolutionize' Ga.

Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday announced $2 billion in grants and loans to bring high-speed Internet to rural communities.

Biden said the Recovery Act funds will be handed out on a rolling basis over the next 75 days. An initial $182 million investment -- aiding 18 broadband projects in 17 different states -- has already been matched by more than $46 million in private capital, he said.

"This is going to revolutionize how rural Georgia lives, works and grows," Biden told his audience at Impulse Manufacturing in Dawsonville, Ga.

Many of the administration's economic recovery goals depend on building Internet infrastructure, Jared Bernstein, chief economic adviser to the vice president, told reporters Wednesday night. The technology can help connect homes to a smart energy grid, improve health IT, run high-speed trains and allow local businesses to enter a global web of commerce.

That connection provides a "new foundation to keep America competitive in the 21st century," he said.

"We are confident the number of jobs created by broadband investments will be tens of thousands, but we can't be more precise at this time," said Bernstein.

Dawsonville is one of the foothill communities in northern Georgia that will benefit from a $33 million award to build a 260-mile regional fiber-optic ring in the region.

"We are really focusing in the first round on the most remote communities," said Jonathan Adelstein, head of the USDA's Rural Utilities Service.

The grants and loans announced Thursday are part of a bigger $7.2 billion stimulus investment aimed at bringing broadband to underserved communities. The remainder must be spent by September 2010, when the Recovery Act funds expire.

On Thursday, the National Economic Council released a report on broadband and economic development, examining how investments will leverage federal dollars to expand high-speed Internet access across the country. In coming days, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will visit Maine and Ohio to discuss how their broadband awards can spur economic development.

Broadband is about giving people isolated in rural areas the same opportunities to engage the world, said Biden. This technology will allow hospitals to consult experts in other countries, schools to teach online courses and local businesses to enter the global web of commerce.

"They're as smart, they're as competent, they're as ready," the vice president said. "But if they're on other side of the digital divide, it doesn't matter how smart they are. They get left behind."
Its funny to me that the bulk of this stimulus money is going to a part of the state that is hostile to our current president & the administration, a region that railed against the stimulus package & in addition you have republican candidates running for the 9th congressional district blasting this $787 million dollar stimulus plan, but when that money shows up at their front door, they're aren't so opposed to that so called "wasted" money. Rail against it, but gladly accepts it. Unbelievable!

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