Obama details recovery plan but short on broadband goals

US President Barack Obama has outlined more details of his recovery plan but came up short on specific goals for broadband expansion.

Barack Obama used his first weekly address as U.S. president to provide more details of his proposed US$825 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan that, among other things, will upgrade classrooms, invest in renewable energy and expand broadband Internet access.

Obama stated his intention to invest in these areas during the presidential debates in September and came back to the issue in a December address that he issued as president-elect, but over the weekend he added concrete goals to the plan.

"It's a plan that will save or create three to four million jobs over the next few years," he said adding that its more than a plan to boost short-term employment. "It's one that will invest in our most important priorities like energy and education; health care and a new infrastructure that are necessary to keep us strong and competitive in the 21st century."

Among the details, Obama said the plan will renovate and modernize 10,000 schools thus creating "state-of-the-art classrooms, libraries, and labs" for 5 million pupils. The plan also hopes to spur students on to careers in science by tripling the number of undergraduates and graduates studying in this area.

Renewable energy is also a focus. The plan will double energy-generating capacity over three years so that 6 million homes are powered by renewable means. He also plans to modernize the electricity grid and install 40 million "smart meters" in American homes.

The plan also aims to accelerate adoption of health IT systems.

"To lower health care cost, cut medical errors, and improve care, we'll computerize the nation's health record in five years, saving billions of dollars in health care costs and countless lives," he said.

But on one aspect of the recovery plan -- expanding broadband access -- he offered no concrete goals and a supporting document issued by the White House doesn't mention the word "broadband" once..

The broadband expansion is part of the infrastructure portion of the plan that will also invest in the road network, mass transit, ports and emergency communications system for law enforcement.

"It means expanding broadband access to millions of Americans, so business can compete on a level-playing field, wherever they're located," he said without offering any goals.

Obama pledged to spend at least 75 percent of the package in the first 18 months after the legislation is enacted and for all spending to be transparent and detailed in a new Web site.

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Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
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