WASHINGTON, Dec 17 (Reuters) - The Obama administration is to award $2 billion in grants and loans over the next 75 days as part of a plan to dramatically expand Americans’ broadband Internet access and create tens of thousands of jobs.
Vice President Joe Biden is due to make the announcement in Dawsonville, Georgia on Thursday. He will give details of an initial $182 million investment in 18 broadband projects in 17 states, officials said.
The $2 billion is part of an overall $7.2 billion set aside in President Barack Obama’s $787 billion economic recovery package to bring broadband access to unserved or underserved U.S. communities.
“Broadband touches nearly every aspect of the U.S. economy, providing Americans with unprecedented opportunities in employment, education, health care, entrepreneurship, and civic participation,” the White House National Economic Council said in a report released to coincide with the announcement.
“These critical broadband investments will create tens of thousands of jobs and stimulate the economy in the near term,” the report said.
Biden’s chief economist, Jared Bernstein, told reporters in a briefing the administration was not able to provide more precise figures on exactly how many jobs would be created.
Officials said the names of the companies that would benefit from the grants and loans would be made public on Thursday.
The broadband expansion projects aim to link communities to the “Internet backbone,” a network of large, high-bandwidth fiber-optic cables that span the country.
“The new broadband access will help underserved and often hard-hit communities overcome the distance and technology barrier by expanding connectivity between educational institutions, enabling remote medical consultations and attracting new businesses as well as the jobs that come with them,” the White House said in a statement. (Editing by Eric Walsh)