WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A broad U.S. economic stimulus package cannot be the major vehicle for achieving the high-speed Internet goals of the incoming administration, a top technology adviser to President-elect Barack Obama said on Wednesday.
Blair Levin, a top aide to Obama, said the broadband piece of the stimulus package should “only do things that are timely, targeted and temporary and can lead to lots of jobs.”
Speaking to a meeting of the Congressional Internet Caucus, Levin said Obama will still pursue goals of expanding broadband access for the unserved and underserved and getting public safety officials a national network. “You kind of have to use existing structures,” he said.
Technology companies and advocates are vying to influence a stimulus bill worth nearly $800 billion that is being drafted by Democratic lawmakers to stop the downward spiral of the American economy and rising unemployment.
Consumer groups want the stimulus package to promote broad policy goals, including Internet competition for the dominant telephone companies and cable companies such as AT&T, Verizon Communications and Comcast.
The groups blame the lack of competition for the United States trailing its industrialized counterparts on Internet speed and penetration.
Analysts at investor advisory firm Stifel Nicolaus said Levin may be trying to lower expectations about the extent of broadband measures likely to be included in the bill.
“We suspect broadband stimulus is not likely to be as ambitious as various groups have sought in proposals for massive new broadband spending, tax incentives, and other measures, though it could represent a down-payment,” the group wrote in an investor note.
The public interest group Free Press, for example, has called for $44 billion to be invested in expanding high-speed Internet.
Levin, who worked at the U.S. Federal Communications Commission under former President Bill Clinton, is on leave from his position at Stifel to advise the Obama campaign on technology issues.
His name has been floated for a potential position within the Obama administration.
Reporting by Kim Dixon; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Tim Dobbyn