So what’s going to happen with all that stimulus money, anyway?
You remember — the $7.2 billion for broadband deployment Congress [cleared](/infra/article.php/3802981/Stimulus+Endgame+House+and+Senate+OK+Billions+for+.htm) a couple weeks ago — minus a couple hundred million here and there for things like consumer education and public computing facilities.
Well, the agencies in charge of the dispersal are getting on that. On Monday, the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA), the agency in charge of the bulk of the broadband stimulus funding, will start meeting with ISPs and other groups interested in grabbing a slice of the grant money.
The Rural Utilities Service (RUS), a division of the Agriculture Department not known for its transparency, will be administering the remainder of the money, $2.5 billion, for broadband in the more sparsely populated areas. No word yet on when RUS will begin meeting with interested ISPs.
However, the following week, March 10, NTIA, RUS and the Federal Communications Commission are planning a joint public meeting to discuss their respective roles in executing the broadband provisions under the stimulus bill. For the former two, that entails the new broadband programs under their purview the bill created; for the FCC it involves formulating a national broadband strategy and reporting back to Congress in a year.
When you’re talking about $787 billion, the total size of the bill, keeping track of the money is a pretty important part of the equation. The Obama team and his congressional backers promised that they would make sure we could easily find out where the money goes — unprecedented transparency, they said. They’ve set up a Web site for that very process.
In the case of the NTIA money, the meetings with ISPs and others interested in the grants are to be a matter of public record, with summaries available in the Federal Register, and written and video transcripts available upon request.
So on the accountability front, I feel the onset of a very cautious optimism that some of the money will actually net a material improvement to our digital infrastructure … if you’re into that sort of thing.