Biden unveils $182 million for rural broadband

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. --- Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday announced the first $182 million in federal stimulus money for 18 projects to expand high-speed Internet networks in rural areas and other underserved communities.

Mr. Biden spoke at Impulse Manufacturing, a technologically advanced metalworks plant in north Georgia whose business has been held back by the lack of a broadband network in its part of the state.

The projects are the first part of a $7.2 billion plan to bring high-speed Internet connections to rural areas, poor neighborhoods and Native American communities.

The awards announced Thursday include the $33.5 million grant to the North Georgia Network Cooperative for a fiber-optic ring that will bring high-speed Internet connections to the northern Georgia foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.

The project will serve an eight-county area with a population of 334,000.

Other projects in the first set will be in Maine, New Hampshire, Ohio, Arizona and Alaska.

The administration plans to award a total of $2 billion in grants and loans on a rolling basis over the next 75 days as it starts doling out the first round of stimulus funding for broadband.

Mr. Biden said the money could be used to help struggling rural areas such as Dawsonville with distance learning, telemedicine and real-time pricing for farmers.

He also tied broadband to the future success of the country's manufacturing industry and middle class.

"We were losing ground for the past 25 years in manufacturing," Mr. Biden said. "We don't want an economy built on another bubble. We want to do what our grandparents did ... and build on a solid foundation."

The Department of Agriculture also announced $53.8 million in funding for eight projects on Thursday, and the Commerce Department announced $129 million in funding for 10 projects. Those projects together also will put up another $46 million in matching dollars.


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