President-elect Barack Obama will have his hands full trying to get the economy back on track once he officially takes office next month, and if the media reform group Free Press has any say in the matter, a major investment in the nation's broadband infrastructure should be high on the list.
In a 30-page reported titled "Down Payment on Our Digital Future: Stimulus Policies for the 21st-Century Economy", the Free Press proposes spending $44 billion in broadband stimulus funds over the next three years. The vast amount of funds would be used to build next-generation broadband networks, connecting rural areas without broadband service, making high speed connections more affordable, providing PCs and training to low income users, promoting children's access to technology at school and at home, and ensuring clear standards of quality, affordability, and competition.
"Promoting the deployment of a national, forward-looking broadband infrastructure will provide substantial short-term and long-term economic benefits," S. Derek Turner, study author and research director of Free Press, wrote in the report (PDF). "This deployment effort will immediately create tens of thousands of new jobs in the telecommunications, manufacturing, and high-tech sectors."
The United States ranks 22nd in the world in broadband adoption, with over 40 percent of all U.S. homes still without a high speed connection. Obama previously said that investing in computers and broadband for schools and hospitals would be part of his immediate economic recovery plans, but no specific amount was ever mentioned.
Would spending $44 billion be overboard? Hit the jump and sound off.