Net Neutrality Connected to Broadband Stimulus

Funds for broadband deployment are part of the economic stimulus package currently under construction on Capitol Hill. Worth noting is that this funding has at least one string attached – network neutrality. Of course, that phrase means different things to different people, so some explanation is in order.

The stimulus funding is focused on areas of the country with little or no internet infrastructure. The legislation, HR 598, currently says that any networks built with this money are to be operated on an “open access” basis. Congress has punted defining what open access means, requiring the Federal Communications Commission to determine what it means within 45 days of enactment. This could be a problem if the designated FCC Chair, Julius Genachowski, is not confirmed prior to the passage of this stimulus bill.

Science and Technology Have Piece of Stimulus Pie

While the stimulus has not been finalized, the House Appropriations Committee has circulated a summary of the major components. From the committee summary:

    Scientific Research
    National Science Foundation: $3 billion, including $2 billion for expanding employment opportunities in fundamental science and engineering to meet environmental challenges and to improve global economic competitiveness, $400 million to build major research facilities that perform cutting edge science, $300 million for major research equipment shared by institutions of higher education and other scientists, $200 million to repair and modernize science and engineering research facilities at the nation’s institutions of higher education and other science labs, and $100 million is also included to improve instruction in science, math and engineering.

    National Institutes of Health Biomedical Research: $2 billion, including $1.5 billion for expanding good jobs in biomedical research to study diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, and heart disease – NIH is currently able to fund less than 20% of approved applications – and $500 million to implement the repair and improvement strategic plan developed by the NIH for its campuses.

    University Research Facilities: $1.5 billion for NIH to renovate university research facilities and help them compete for biomedical research grants. The National Science Foundation estimates a maintenance backlog of $3.9 billion in biological science research space. Funds are awarded competitively.
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