The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA or Recovery Act) (P.L. 111-5) specifies two programs under which the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has responsibilities:
Digital-To-Analog Converter Box Program (Education and Outreach)
Under the ARRA, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the Department of Commerce may use up to $90 million for consumer education and outreach related to the transition to digital television broadcasts, and may transfer this amount to the FCC if deemed necessary and appropriate by the Secretary of Commerce, in order to aid a smooth transition to digital broadcasts by increasing awareness, particularly among groups most at risk for losing television service. NTIA and the FCC are tailoring digital television transition outreach efforts to respond to changing circumstances, and if future transfers are deemed necessary and appropriate, the Congress will be advised in accordance with the ARRA.
Broadband Technology Opportunities Program
As directed in the ARRA, the FCC will develop a national broadband plan and consult with the NTIA in their implementation of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). The Secretary of Commerce, in consultation with the FCC and following Congressional notification, may transfer amounts to the FCC for carrying out these responsibilities. The ARRA also requires the Chairman to consult with the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) on a study and report on availability of open source health information technology systems. See Recovery Act § 4104(b).
The recovery goals for these two programs are:
1. Provide education and outreach concerning the digital television transition, particularly programs to educate vulnerable populations, including senior citizens, minority communities, people with disabilities, low-income individuals, and people living in rural areas, and provide one-on-one assistance to vulnerable populations, including help with converter box installations.
2. Develop a national broadband plan by February 2010 to ensure that all people of the United States have access to broadband capability and establish benchmarks for meeting that goal. The national broadband plan shall include the following:
a. An analysis of the most effective and efficient mechanisms for ensuring broadband access
b. A detailed strategy for achieving affordability of broadband service and maximum utilization of broadband infrastructure and service by the public
c. An evaluation of the status of broadband deployment, including progress of projects supported by BTOP grants
d. A plan for use of broadband infrastructure and services in advancing consumer welfare, civic participation, public safety and homeland security, community development, health care delivery, energy independence and efficiency, education, worker training, private sector investment, entrepreneurial activity, job creation and economic growth, and other national purposes.
After sending notification to Congress as required by the ARRA, NTIA transferred $65,705,000 in funding to the FCC to support the Converter Box Program. Initiatives to be funded include media buys, walk-in assistance centers, in-home converter box assistance, call center support services, upgrades to improve the Commissions DTV website, printing DTV publications and translating those publications to benefit non-English speaking communities, and travel for staff providing local support, particularly in markets with a significant percentage of households receiving television signals over-the-air.
No funds have been transferred from NTIA to FCC for developing a national broadband plan or for carrying out any other FCC responsibilities under the BTOP section of the Recovery Act. If funds are transferred for this purpose, Congressional notification of the transfer will be submitted not less than 15 days in advance of the transfer.