New Pressure To Up Water Infrastructure Spending; Broadband Funding Fleshed Out

April 2009 Vol. 64 No. 4

Broadband funding from stimulus being fleshed out

The two federal agencies who received billions of dollars in the stimulus package for nationwide broadband development held public meetings in March to determine how their $7 billion plus will be spent. A public comment period was open through mid April, after which the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and Rural Utilities Service (RUS) will announce the federal rules for downloading their $4.7 billion and $2.5 billion funds respectively. The two agencies are jointly developing a Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) whose funds will be directed mostly at residents in underserved areas.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 – the official name of the stimulus bill – specifies that each state get at least one grant. That money can go to the state or a locality, but also to a nonprofit corporation or foundation. In awarding those grants, the NTIA and RUS are suppose to determine a list of priority uses, such as whether a grant will
increase the affordability of, and subscribership to, service to the greatest population of users in the area; or provide the greatest broadband speed possible to the greatest population of users in the area; or enhance service for health care delivery, education or children to the greatest population of users in the area.

The ARRA states that NTIA shall establish the BTOP as expeditiously as practicable, ensure that all awards are made before the end of fiscal year 2010, and seek assurances from grantees that projects supported by the programs will be substantially completed within two years following an award.

Obama’s proposed 2010 budget raises energy taxes

President Obama’s proposed fiscal 2010 budget (starting Oct. 1, 2009) includes a $31.5 billion tax increase for oil and natural gas companies over 10 years. That would include a new excise tax on offshore oil and gas production, elimination of some oil recovery tax breaks and repeal of the manufacturing tax deduction for oil and gas companies.

“If enacted as presented, the budget would negatively impact the amount of investment needed to bring more natural gas to market and raise the price of natural gas,” Natural Gas Supply Association President and CEO R. Skip Horvath says. “That is not the right signal to send to U.S. manufacturers who rely on natural gas. The unintended consequence of this budget will be to send manufacturing jobs offshore.”