National Cable & Telecommunications Association President Kyle McSlarrow took to the organization's blog to put cable's broadband priorities in perspective against the backdrop of the ongoing debate over the economic stimulus package.
Broadband deployment is a centerpiece of the Obama administration's economic recovery plan, and McSlarrow says that is fine with him. Currently, the just-passed House bill has about $6 billion total for broadband stimulus, including grants, subsidies and tax incentives, while the Senate version marked up in the Senate Appropriations Committee has about $9 billion.
McSlarrow says the government should spend its broadband money wisely.
He said that one of the ways to "move the needle" on broadband adoption without breaking the bank, would be to subsidize computers. "Survey data is pretty consistent that somewhere around 20% of American households don't even have a computer in their house. So whether or not they have broadband at the curb is kind of irrelevant..."The government can have a huge impact for a relatively small number...by directly subsidizing the acquisition of netbooks or other devices to insure Internet connectivity."
He also said that the government should help make broadband affordable by looking at subsidizing broadband using the Universal Service Fund that has been historically used for phone service.
McSlarrow said most of the broadband money in the stimulus package should go to serve the 8% to 10% of the population that doesn't have access to broadband at all. "That is a totally appropriate place for the government to incent providers to build out in those areas. If you are talking scarce resources, it strikes us that that ought to be the priority and it is probably that most of the money people are talking about in the context of the broadband stimulus package would be needed just to solve that problem."