Klobuchar to Obama: Broadband Investments Should be Part of Economic Recovery Plan
Washington, D.C. – Monday, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar sent a letter to President-elect Barack Obama encouraging that broadband investments be included in the economic recovery plan that the Senate is expected to consider in the coming weeks. In the letter, Klobuchar said that broadband investments will help generate new jobs and new opportunities in rural communities.
“As a country, we have ensured that every American has access to telephone service and electricity, regardless of economic status. We must now do the same for broadband Internet access,” said Klobuchar. “In addition to creating educational and health care opportunities, broadband can create opportunities for businesses and employment that would otherwise not exist in rural communities. In these tough economic times, broadband deployment creates jobs – not only the direct creation of jobs in the tech sector, but also the creation of even more indirect employment opportunities by increasing access to broadband.”
During November and December, Klobuchar traveled to 22 of Minnesota’s counties and convened a Broadband Roundtable in Minnesota earlier this week to gather ideas and support for such investments.
At the roundtable, Klobuchar noted that the United States has become an international laggard on Internet access. According to the International Telecommunications Union, the U.S. ranks 24th in the world in broadband penetration.
“In many communities,” Klobuchar said, “the problem is that access is either too slow or too expensive, or both. As a result, businesses, hospitals, schools and even law enforcement are all at a disadvantage.”
In the U.S., rural access and usage is significantly lower than the national average. The roundtable also focused on how broadband service is becoming increasingly important for job creation and economic development. She cited a recent study by the Brookings Institution, which estimates that every one percentage point increase in broadband penetration per year would lead to the creation of nearly 300,000 new jobs.
Klobuchar serves on the Senate Commerce Committee, which has authority over telecommunications issues. She cosponsored the Broadband Data Improvement Act (S. 1492), which was signed into law in October. The legislation will improve the quality of the data collected by the federal government on broadband services. It also authorizes a grant program for states to create statewide broadband initiatives.
The full text of Klobuchar’s letter is below:
Dear President-elect Obama:
As we begin formulating an economic stimulus package to be considered in the next Congress, I applaud your efforts to include investment in our nation’s information infrastructure.
As a country, we have ensured that every American has access to telephone service and electricity, regardless of economic status. We must now do the same for broadband Internet access. In addition to creating educational and health care opportunities, broadband can create opportunities for businesses and employment that would otherwise not exist in rural communities. In these tough economic times, broadband deployment creates jobs – not only the direct creation of jobs in the tech sector, but also the creation of even more indirect employment opportunities by increasing access to broadband.
After visiting 22 of Minnesota’s counties over November and December to gather ideas and support for the economic stimulus package, I convened a Broadband Roundtable in my state on December 29. I heard first-hand from people all over the state about the importance of making sure they have access to fast and affordable broadband. In rural communities, there is a particular need. There are success stories in Minnesota in which providers and communities have worked together to make broadband access a reality. Much more remains to be done, however, and I agree with you that the federal government can – and should – play a decisive role in making sure that all Americans have access to a 21st Century information infrastructure.
I believe that any economic stimulus package must include mechanisms designed to bring affordable and fast broadband not only to unserved areas, but also to those areas that are currently underserved. The issue in Minnesota is not necessarily the availability of Internet access, but limited and slow access for many citizens.
In addition, based on what I have seen in Minnesota, I believe that public-private partnerships can be an important part of unleashing the economic potential of broadband. As a result, any economic stimulus package should fund matching grants for local buildout projects.
Finally, one aspect of the nation’s information infrastructure that may continue to elude us absent some type of direct federal involvement is the creation of an advanced, interoperable communications network for public safety. The fact that our nation’s police, fire and emergency personnel still do not have access to such a network more than seven years after the tragic events of September 11th is not acceptable. I believe that consideration of this issue in the context of broadband stimulus measures may present the best chance to address this continuing problem.
Again, I commend you for your focus on using 21st Century technology to create jobs and help our economy be more robust and competitive in the long-term. I look forward to working with you in making broadband available to all Americans.
(From Office of Amy Klobuchar)