Broadband Stimulus Raises Eyebrows

For the most part, the Microwaves & RF editorial staff believes that political analysis and commentary are best left to the editors and columnists featured in daily newspapers and news magazines. Yet we also realize that we are based in the US and as such are affected by the plans and policies of the nation's president. Take, for example, the stimulus bill that many are hoping will stave off the deepening of this economic crisis. Because part of this bill centers on broadband communications, the resulting funding may significantly impact the microwave industry.

As of this writing, the latest iteration of the economic stimulus package allocates money for broadband deployment, healthcare-related information technology (IT), and a national electronic smart grid. Ideally, the smart grid will allow individuals to monitor and adjust their energy consumption remotely while the IT improvements enable healthcare providers to transition to electronic health records. These improvements also will pave the way for the greater use of technology in both the medical industry and energy monitoring. For them to succeed, however, access to the Internet is critical.

Internet access tends to be spotty and slow outside of cities and more densely populated areas in the US. Providing broadband, high-speed service to more rural areas could therefore be life-changing in terms of those populations' ability to function more efficiently and actually take advantage of the schooling, networking, and educational services offered on the Internet. The stimulus package also will help the WiMAX industry. According to an article by Maravedis, Inc., "Most WiMAX operators are finding it difficult to maintain investment plans for new network build-out and enhancement projects, due to the limited capital-raising opportunities." Many microwave companies target broadband applications with their products. As such, keeping broadband communications on a path of steady growth should help this industry remain stable during the downturn.

Of course, the stimulus effort has raised doubts. The most glaring issue is probably the spending involved, as the proposed bill did not include a great number of tax cuts. Although the stimulus package offers advantages, it does so at a price that will have to be paid in the future. In addition, the money will start being spent right away to put this broadband infrastructure in place. Yet the services won't be availableand the money will not be completely investeduntil at least a few years from now, leaving some folks to wonder how much benefit will be gained now. Despite these doubts, most agree that the US is underserved in terms of broadband service. The stimulus package was created to roll out such services while providing financial benefits for technology firms. If it meets this goal, some estimate that it will create up to 4000 science and technology jobs.

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