Recently, the USDA awarded $11.3 million in community broadband grants to 34 communities in 20 states, a far cry from the $1.4 billion in loans and loan guarantees to rural telecom providers promised by Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman in 2002. The purpose of these grants is to spur the technological development in rural America, which comprises 75% of the nations land, but only 25% of the population. The 2002 Farm Security and Rural Investment Act also included $20 million in federal funds to finance rural broadband. While providing the entire country with up-to-date broadband solutions is a noble endeavor, it is one best left to private enterprise. As demonstrated by Tom's paper on municipal ownership of telecom, it is in the best interest of the taxpayer and the consumer for government to allow private enterprise to build and provide broadband solutions. For government to involve itself in an industry as uncertain and competitive as telecommunications makes little sense.
Bush actually sees these grant programs as pork barrel spending and much to the chagrin of the Wireless Communication Association and the FTTH Council. In a speech in New Mexico today, Bush spoke on the importance of affordable broadband access to all Americans, but omitted any mention of federal funding, which begs the question "who will pay for this?"