WASHINGTON Feb 16 The $7.2 billion in funding
to promote high-speed Internet in the stimulus package is just
the first step in the Obama administration's effort to fuel
expansion of telecommunications services, an adviser to the
president said on Monday.
"Despite new federal money, the amount is but a fraction of
what is needed" to establish the United States in terms of
broadband versus other developed countries, said Blair Levin,
an adviser to U.S. President Barack Obama on telecom matters
during the transition and now an informal adviser.
"You've got to take a long view," he said.
Blair, who recently returned to his position as an
investment adviser at investment banking firm Stifel Nicolaus,
spoke at a conference of state utility regulators in
Obama's campaign promise to vault the U.S. out of its slump
in terms of connectivity, speeds and access to broadband among
its industrial peers has raised the hopes of the technology
The hopes were somewhat dashed by the size of the stimulus
package devoted to broadband. One public interest group had
called for $44 billion to build networks to connect rural and
other unserved parts of the U.S. to the Internet to help bridge
the digital divide.
Obama is expected to sign the nearly $800 billion economic
measure, which passed largely down partisan lines, later this
Eyes are now on the U.S. Federal Communications Commission
as it has a year under the bill to develop a national strategy
No new FCC chairman has been named, but Julius Genachowski,
a technology executive and former FCC staffer, is widely
expected to be nominated.
Gerald Granovsky, a senior analyst at Moody's, said a key
area to watch is reform of the universal service fund, which
provides nationwide telephone service.
There is an effort to use some of the money collected from
that fund for broadband, which is currently not technically
allowed in the law.
(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)