Stimulus: Mass Transit, Broadband Grants Might Increase

by: Chris Bowers

Wed Jan 21, 2009 at 16:03

More updates, this time on the stimulus, from my visit to the Senate today.

First, at a Senate progressive media summit today, Senator Charles Schumer said that he was unhappy about the amount of stimulus money set aside for mass transit and rail. He indicated that several other Senators from highly urbanized states were also unhappy about this portion of the stimulus, and that when the legislation reached the Senate, they would be jointly pushing for an increase in money set aside for mass transit and rail. The current amount for mass transit and rail in the stimulus bill is only $10 billion.

Second, I had a chance to speak to Senator Amy Klobuchar, who sits on the Environment and Public Works committee. I asked her about the $6 billion set aside for high-speed Internet expansion currently provided in the draft of the stimulus bill. She indicated that, in her opinion, $6 billion was not enough. Further, she said that she had spoken with the Appropriations chair on this matter (Senator Daniel Inouye), and was hopeful that broadband funding in the stimulus would be increased.

Also, I asked Senator Klobuchar whether the grants for high-speed Interent access in the stimulus would primarily be given to state and local governments, or to telecommunications companies. I am concerned that if the money was given to telecommunications companies, that broadband access would not be increased. After all, if those companies were not serving rural and other low-access areas in the past, why would they do so during an economic downturn? The Senators response was that she hoped the grants would be given to public / private partnerships of the sort that she thought were previously successful in Minnesota, and also to smaller, rural telecoms through the universal service fund. More on this later on.

So, in two key underfunded areas in the stimulus, mass transit / high speed rail and high speed internet, there appears to be significant support in the Senate for increasing funding. Again, this is good news, and a story that I will continue to follow.

Chris Bowers :: Stimulus: Mass Transit, Broadband Grants Might Increase

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Stimulus, Mass Transit, detailed analysis (4.00 / 2)
BruceMF in Transport Stimulus: You're Doing It Wrong:

Take the following details, wherein the devil always lies. Under the summary description, "$10 billion for transit and rail to reduce traffic congestion and gas consumption" ... which is fishy right there, since everybody knows there are more than $10b in deferred maintenance to get passenger and freight rail in this country, and more than $10b in freight bottlenecks, many of which have been "studied" to death

he goes into some fairly detailed analysis on why this is just business as usual and not efficiently even addressing the needs of transport and infrastructure.

It's clear he knows what he's talking about and this is one of his watch areas.  

It's worth a read to know precisely what's wrong and very encouraging to see Congress publicly acknowledging unhappiness.  

The Economic Populist

well, that's moderately promising (0.00 / 0)
For a senator from New York, the home of the largest mass transit system in the country, Schumer has been frustratingly slow on pushing for more mass transit/rail funding. It's good to hear such grumbles from him. I'd also be interested to hear what Key Hagan thinks - I've heard she's a strong supporter of good transportation policy.

Broadband $$$ will go to the Baby Bells (0.00 / 0)
and nowhere else, is my bet.  Who else is going to build the infrastructure?  Whoever the answer to that question is, we can be assured that they don't have nearly as effective an army of lobbyists and preexisting relationships with Congress as the Baby Bells.  And the cellcos can't promise anything on a wireless basis that is even close to real broadband speeds.

Of course, after they get the money, they'll just digest it and say that it wasn't enough.  Ask Bruce Kushnick over at how many times we've paid the Baby Bells for universal broadband, in the US.

Let's hope (0.00 / 0)
we can get increases in both of those areas. That's where it's really lacking so far.  

John McCain: Beacuse lobbyists should have more power

Thank you Chris (4.00 / 1)
You don't know how important it is that you are at the Senate, asking these important questions on behalf of the netroots and, indeed, progressives as a whole. The more these Democrats are asked about infrastructure spending (and PARTICULARLY mass transit and rail), the more likely they are to make it a priority.

I just can't imagine there are a lot of people calling or writing about business tax cuts. Sure, lobbyists are having their say, but who wants to go to the mat for more tax cuts?

The Democrats are finally in charge, they are our people, and if we voice our concerns they will be receptive to them. So I hope you continue to ask every Senator and Congressperson you can about why the rail spending is so ridiculously low.

so we taxpayers get to pay for everything twice (0.00 / 0)
here's free money to transit and telecoms, then we pay to use the services that we already paid for.
sounds like a great win for corporations as usual.

The NY Subways (4.00 / 2)
were paid for by government, but that doesn't mean the NY transit authorities should let people ride them for free. Maintenance and the salary of train operators actually cost money.

[ Parent ]
Rural broadband is a waste of money and bad policy (0.00 / 1)
Not only is building out more robust broadband for rural areas very expensive on a per person basis, its also backward from a sustainable lower energy society agenda. More sustainable communities are ones which have higher density. They also happen to be more socially minded / progressive. Forget the rural areas - they love freedom of the frontier and freedom from government so much they can have it. let them subscribe to satellite internet with their own money if they need to download more pr0n.

~* the * Will * to go on *~

That's a horrible attitude to have. (4.00 / 1)
First of all, you don't know how people in rural areas think. Second of all, if Rural Areas are regressive, how does that explain Vermont? Your arguments against rural broadband infrastucture, such as "freedom of the frontier" and "freedom from government" could have been used as arguments against rural electrification in the 1930's. Besides, there are sustainable farming techniques. Just ask Senator/Organic farmer Jon Tester.

All in all, I think your attitude is regressive, not progressive.

[ Parent ]
Fuck you (0.00 / 0)
Grow your own fucking food then asshole.

[ Parent ]
schumer on pbs-not happy (0.00 / 0)
schumer on charlie rose. he said the stimulus is not big enough etc.. said the govt may need to spend 5 trillion for stimuluses and other issues for the economy.


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