• President's Budget Highlights Broadband Priorities
  • June 3, 2009 | Authors: Jennifer L. Richter; Jennifer A. Cetta; Carly T. Didden
  • Law Firm: Patton Boggs LLP - Washington Office
  • The President unveiled a detailed budget plan last week, highlighting the importance of deploying broadband infrastructure. The Fiscal Year 2010 budget proposes $20 million for the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), $1.3 billion for broadband and telecommunications grants and loans administered by the Agriculture Department’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) and $335.8 million for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

    • RUS. The $1.3 billion for RUS broadband and telecommunications programs is in keeping with the President’s pledge to “increase broadband capacity and improve telecommunication service and education and health opportunities in rural America.” The budget includes $690 million for rural telecommunication, which provides direct loans for construction, expansion and operation of telecommunications lines and facilities or systems. The RUS budget also proposes $531 million for the principal amount of broadband telecommunications loans, $38.5 million for the cost of broadband loans authorized under the Rural Electrification Act, $29.8 million for telemedicine and distance learning services grants, and $13.4 million for grants to finance broadband transmission in rural areas eligible for Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program benefits.
       
    • NTIA. The $20 million for NTIA operations is in line with the 2009 estimated budget and the 2010 actual budget for “necessary expenses.” The budget eliminates funding for administering Public Telecommunications Facilities, Planning, and Construction grants, since the grant program itself is proposed for termination in 2010. The budget proposes $11.5 million for administering the Digital Television Transition and Public Safety Fund created by the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, as amended by the DTV Delay Act passed earlier this year.
       
    • FCC. The $335.8 million for FCC salaries and authorized expenses does not include auction revenues, universal service contributions, and other offsetting collections from sources other than regulatory fees. All but $1 million of the agency’s budget is funded from regulatory fees. The budget would allow $25.5 million to be transferred from the Universal Service Fund (USF) to pay for monitoring the fund for waste, fraud and abuse, and to conduct audits and investigations by the Office of Inspector General. The budget also proposes to authorize through legislation the auctioning of domestic satellite spectrum, indefinitely extending the FCC’s spectrum auction authority (currently set to expire on Sept. 30, 2012), and setting user fees on un-auctioned spectrum licenses - all of which were part of recent White House budget proposals but were not included. The budget overview also proposes to re-impose the Anti-deficiency Act requirements on USF and eliminate a restriction on the use of funds for single conntion or primary line support to implement 2004 recommendations of the Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service.
       
    • Interoperability Programs. The President’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) budget proposes $50 million for the Interoperable Emergency Communications Grant Program. The proposed funding level is the same as FY2009. The Department of Justice, meanwhile, is asking for $205.1 million for interoperable communications to continue development of the Integrated Wireless Network. A contract was awarded to launch the network in 2007 as a nationwide collaboration among the Justice, Homeland Security, and the Treasury departments.
       
    • Smart Grid. Although stimulus funding in the Recovery Act lays the groundwork for modernizing the electric grid with $4.5 billion, the President requests $208 million in the Energy Department budget for such programs, a 52% increase from FY2009. Of that amount, $67 million will go to research “smart grid” initiatives to transmit power more efficiently.