Last updated: August 17, 2009 - 8:30am
Christopher Vein, chief information officer of the city of San Francisco, has some inventive ways to bring high-speed Internet access to areas of the city barely reached by broadband. He's marshaled donated PCs and equipment and tapped excess capacity on the city's fiber-optic network to give inner-city residents a fast connection to the Web and bring state-of-the-art health care to a clinic in one of San Francisco's least privileged neighborhoods. In many ways, Vein is just getting warmed up; he has even bigger plans. But as outsize as his ambitions may be, Vein won't be in line for one of the government's grandest plans for bringing broadband into underserved parts of the country. At least for now, San Francisco is holding off on applying for a grant under the federal government's $4.7 billion Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, designed to encourage broadband development around the country. It's not that Vein doesn't want the money, or couldn't put it to good use. But as written, the rules governing the grants are stacked against cities like San Francisco, even though urban areas are among the places least reached by broadband and most in need of efforts like the one under way. Broadband advocates and city governments have started to lobby the National Telecommunications and Information Administration for a change in the rules.
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