American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

Law Details

This legislation has been signed into law. The details of the law are displayed below. Further down the page you can view the original legislation information.

Passage Date: 
February 17, 2009

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is a massive law with many provisions. Below we summarize key communications-related provisions of the law. We will be adding to the summary as we get additional details. Currently we summarize provisions related to:

Broadband Technology Opportunities Program

Rural Distance Learning, Telemedicine, and Broadband/Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities Service

Comprehensive, Nationwide Broadband Mapping

National Broadband Strategy

Digital-to-Analog Converter Box Coupons

Health Information Technology

I. Broadband Technology Opportunities Program

Update July 1, 2009: The Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration has released a Notice of Funds Available (NOFA) for the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program.

The law creates the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (B-TOP), headed by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration in consultation with the Federal Communications Commission.

The purpose of B-TOP is to:

  1. provide access to broadband service in unserved areas
  2. improve access in underserved areas
  3. provide broadband education, awareness, training, access, equipment and support to:
    • schools, libraries, healthcare providers, institutions of higher education, community support organizations, job-creating strategic facilities in economic zones
  4. improve broadband access and use by public safety organizations
  5. stimulate the demand for broadband, economic growth and job creation

All B-TOP awards are to be made by the end of September 2010 and all projects are to be completed within two years of an award.

The NTIA is to report to Congress on the progress of B-TOP every 90 days.

States, local and Tribal governments are eligible for grants as are non-profit and corporate entities including broadband providers.

Applicants are to let the NTIA know how a grant will be used and demonstrate why a project would not be completed without Federal support. The applicant must also show that it is capable of carrying out the project, can raise additional funds and disclose where those funds will come from. The Federal share of any project may not exceed 80% unless the applicant applies for a waiver that demonstrates financial need.

Grants may support the acquisition of equipments, hardware, software, and infrastructure; construction of infrastructure; ensuring access to broadband service by a community anchor institution; facilitate broadband access for low-income, unemployed, aged and otherwise vulnerable population in order to increase their educational and employment opportunities; and construction of facilities to improve public safety broadband communications.

The NTIA is to award at least one B-TOP grant in each state while considering if the project will:

  1. increase affordability and subscribership to the greatest number of people,
  2. provide the greatest speed of service possible to the greatest number of people, and
  3. will enhance service for health care delivery, education, and children to the greatest number of people.

The NTIA is directed to give preference to applicants that are socially or economically disadvantaged small businesses.

Grant winners must submit quarterly reports on their progress and projects that do not demonstrate sufficient progress or are wasteful will lose their grants. The NTIA is to make the quarterly reports available to the public as well as creating and maintaining a fully searchable, Internet accessible database of all applications and award winners so that the public may understand and monitor these grants.

When the NTIA issues a request for proposals for these grants, it is to publish non-discrimination and network interconnection obligations that adhere to the Federal Communications Commission's August 2005 broadband policy statement (collectively, these principles as often referred to as Network Neutrality):

  • To encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet, consumers are entitled to access the lawful Internet content of their choice.
  • To encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet, consumers are entitled to run applications and use services of their choice, subject to the needs of law enforcement.
  • To encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet, consumers are entitled to connect their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network
  • To encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet, consumers are entitled to competition among network providers, application and service providers, and content providers

The law authorizes $4.7 billion for B-TOP:

  • $3.75 billion for competitive grants, focusing on community-oriented networking needs
  • $200 million are reserved for expanding public computer center capacity -- including at community colleges and public libraries
  • $250 million are reserved for programs to encourage sustainable adoption of broadband service
  • $10 million goes to the Department of Commerce, Office of Inspector General for audits and oversight
  • up to $350 million to implement the Broadband Data Improvement Act (see Comprehensive, Nationwide Broadband Mapping below)
  • Some funds may be used by the FCC for developing a nation broadband plan (see below)
  • No more than 3% of these funds ($141 million) may be used for administrative costs

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II. Rural Distance Learning, Telemedicine, and Broadband/Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities Service

Update July 1, 2009: The Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service has released a Notice of Funds Available (NOFA) for the Broadband Initiatives Program.

The law triples the FY2008 budget of the Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service (RUS) for distance learning, telemedicine, and broadband programs through broadband loans and loan guarantees, and for grants (including for technical assistance) with the following conditions:

  • At least 75% of the area being served must be rural without sufficient access to high speed broadband service to facilitate economic development;
  • Priority is to be given to projects applications for:
    • broadband systems that deliver end users a choice of more than one service provider,
    • projects that provide service to the highest proportion of rural residents who do not have access to broadband service,
    • projects that include applications from current or former RUS participants,
    • projects that will be fully-funded if they get the federal award, and
    • projects that can be started quickly and completed if funded.
  • If a project is receiving funding from Dept of Agriculture, the project must not also B-TOP funding.

The Secretary of Agriculture must submit a report to Congress by May 17, 2009 on obligations or plans to spend the $2.5 billion allocated.

For more on current RUS broadband programs, see the Rural Development Community Connect Grant Program and the Rural Development Broadband Loan and Loan Guarantee Program.

III. Comprehensive, Nationwide Broadband Mapping

Update: NTIA Unveils Program to Help States Map Internet Infrastructure

The law also directs the NTIA to develop and maintain a comprehensive nationwide inventory map of existing broadband service from both commercial and public providers. By Feb 17, 2011, the NTIA is to make an interactive, searchable version of this map available via its website.

This is related to implementation of the Broadband Data Improvement Act which allows the Department of Commerce (probably the NTIA) to make competitive grants to develop and implement statewide initiatives to identify and track the availability and adoption of broadband services within each state.

That Broadband Data Improvement Act directs the Federal Communications Commission to:

  • compile a list of geographical areas that are not served by any provider of advanced telecommunications capability (high-speed, switched, broadband telecommunications capability that enables users to originate and receive high-quality voice, data, graphics, and video telecommunications);
  • conduct and make public periodic surveys of consumers in urban, suburban, and rural areas in the large business, small business, and residential consumer markets to evaluate the national characteristics of broadband service capability;
  • provide eligible entities electronic access to aggregate data (subject to exception) collected by the FCC from broadband service providers.

[The Broadband Data Improvement Act defines "eligible entity" as an entity that is: 1) either an agency or instrumentality of a state (or a state's subdivision), a nonprofit organization, or certain independent agencies; and 2) the single eligible entity designated by the state to receive such a grant.]

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IV. National Broadband Strategy

Many groups, including the Benton Foundation, have for some time called for the Federal government to devise a coherent road map of goals and policies that complement and accelerate efforts in the marketplace to achieve universal adoption of affordable high-speed Internet connections. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act commits the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to delivering to Congress a national broadband plan by February 17, 2010. The plan's aim is to ensure that all people of the US have access to broadband and to set benchmarks for reaching this goal.

The plan is also to include:

  • an analysis of the most effective and efficient mechanisms for ensuring broadband access by people in the US
  • a detailed strategy for achieving broadband service affordability and maximizing the use of broadband networks
  • an evaluation of the deployment of broadband in the US -- including the progress of B-TOP grantees
  • a plan for using broadband to improve 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

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V. Analog TV Converter Coupons

The law provides a $650 million for additional digital-to-analog converter box coupons and related activities, including up to $90 million for education and outreach (such as grants to organizations that will educate people at-risk of losing television service).

These funds help implement the DTV Delay Act which:

  • delays the transition of television broadcasting from analog to digital to June 13, 2009;
  • extends to July 31, 2009 the deadline for requesting digital-to-analog converter box coupons; and
  • authorizes the issuance, on request, of one replacement coupon for each coupon that expired without being redeemed.

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VI. Health Information Technology

The new law lays the foundation to:

  • adopt national health information technology (HIT) standards,
  • provide incentives for adoption, and
  • use of HIT, and addresses privacy and security issues.

The law providdes investment in health information technology infrastructure and in incentives for Medicare and Medicaid providers.

The key player in the HIT provisions is the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology within the Department of Health and Human Services. Although this Office already exists, the Recovery Act codifies it and defines the duties of the National Coordinator:

A) Develop a nationwide health information technology infrastructure that:

  1. Ensures that each patient’s health information is secure/protected
  2. Improves health care quality, reduces medical errors, reduces health disparities, and advances the delivery of patient-centered medical care;
  3. reduces health care costs resulting from inefficiency, medical errors, inappropriate care, duplicative care, and incomplete information;
  4. provides appropriate information to help guide medical decisions at the time and place of care;
  5. ensures the inclusion of meaningful public input in such development of such infrastructure;
  6. improves the coordination of care and information among hospitals, laboratories, physician offices, and other entities through an effective infrastructure for the secure and authorized exchange of health care information;
  7. improves public health activities and facilitates the early identification and rapid response to public health threats and emergencies, including bio-terror events and infectious disease outbreaks;
  8. facilitates health and clinical research and health care quality;
  9. promotes early detection, prevention, and management of chronic diseases;
  10. promotes a more effective marketplace, greater competition, greater systems analysis, increased consumer choice, and improved outcomes in health care services; and
  11. improves efforts to reduce health disparities.

B) Develop Health IT Standards

  1. Review recommendations of the Health Information Technology (HIT) Standards Committee and make recommendations to the HHS Secretary within 45 days of receiving them
  2. Review Federal health information technology investments to ensure that Federal health information technology programs are meeting the objectives of the strategic plan

C) Coordinate HIT Policy

  1. Coordinate health information technology policy and programs of HHS with those of other relevant executive branch agencies with a goal of avoiding duplication of efforts and of helping to ensure that each agency undertakes health information technology activities primarily within the areas of its greatest expertise and technical capability and in a manner towards a coordinated national goal
  2. Serve as leading member in the creation/operation of the HIT Policy Committee and the HIT Standards Committee; serve as liaison between the Committees and the Federal Government.

D) Update the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan

  1. Work with National Institute of Standards and Technology and other federal agencies to update the plan
  2. Include specific objectives, milestones, and metrics with respect to:
    • electronic exchange and use of health information and the enterprise integration of such information,
    • utilization of an electronic health record for each person in the United States by 2014 (Specifically related to this goal, the coordinator is to publish an annual report on the resources need and available to reach it)
    • privacy, security, encryption
    • coordinating the flow of recommendations and policies between the Secretary, the national Coordinator, the Committees and other health information exchanges and entities
    • fostering public understanding of health information technology
    • enhancing use of HIT in improving the quality of health care, reducing media errors and health disparities, improving public health, increasing prevention and coordination with community resources and improving continuity of care
    • specific plans for populations with unique needs including, as appropriate, automated enrollment and retention
  3. Collaborate with public and private entities
  4. Include measurable outcome goals
  5. Publish the plan

E) Update Website

  1. Maintain and frequently update a website which includes information on the work, schedules, reports, recommendations, and other information to ensure transparency in promotion of a nationwide health information technology infrastructure.

F) Certification

  1. Keep or recognize a program or programs for the voluntary certification of health information technology as being in compliance with applicable certification adopted criteria

G) Recommendations to Congress

  1. Report to Congress, within 1 year, a report on any additional funding or authority the Coordinator or the Committees need to evaluate and develop standards, implementation specifications, and certification criteria, or to achieve full participation of stakeholders in the adoption of a nationwide health information technology infrastructure.

H) Lessons Learned

  1. Report on lessons learned from major public and private health care systems in their implementation of health information technology, including information on whether the technologies and practices developed by such systems may be applicable to and usable in whole or in part by other health care providers.

I) Acessment

Access and publish:

  1. the impact of HIT in: a) communities with health disparities and b)areas with a high portion of people who are uninsured or under insured, and medically underserved individuals
  2. identified practices to increase HIT adoption by health care providers in these communities
  3. use of HIT to reduce and better mange chronic diseases

J) Assistance to public interest groups

  1. The Coordinator may provide financial assistance to non-profits so they may participate in the National Technology Transfer Act of 1995

K) Governance Mechanism

  1. The Coordinator shall establish a governance mechanism for the nationwide health information network

The law provides $20 million to Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (Dept of Commerce) work on advancing health care information enterprise-integration through activities• such as technical standards analysis and establishment of conformance testing infrastructure, so long as such activities are coordinated with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology

The law provides $300 million to support regional health information exchange

The law requires an annual operating plan to Congress

  • FY 2009 plan due in 90 days (May 18, 2009); Nov 1 every year thereafter
  • Plans describe how expenditures are aligned with the specific objectives, milestones, and metrics of the Federal Health Information Technology Strategic Plan, the allocation of HHS resources, ID programs and activities supported
Enactment Issues: 

Update July 1, 2009:

See Benton's ARRA Implementation Schedule

Peter Orszag, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), has sent a memo to the heads of those departments and agencies, explaining what's expected of them and offering advice for how to meet those high standards. According to the memo, agencies will be expected to provide data which demonstrates that:

  1. Funds are awarded and distributed in a prompt, fair, and reasonable manner;
  2. The recipients and uses of all funds are transparent to the public, and the public benefits of these funds are reported clearly, accurately, and in a timely manner;
  3. Funds are used for authorized purposes and instances of fraud, waste, error, and abuse are mitigated;
  4. Projects funded under this Act avoid unnecessary delays and cost overruns; and
  5. Program goals are achieved, including specific program outcomes and improved results on broader economic indicators.

Starting immediately, agencies must ensure all funds provided by the Recovery Act are clearly distinguishable from non-Recovery Act funds in all agency financial systems, business systems (i.e., grant and contract writing systems), and reporting systems.

Starting immediately, agencies must have all award documents and related communications include the clauses and provisions necessary to clarify that award recipients are legally obligated and must meet their reporting requirements under the Recovery Act and the OMB Guidance.

To facilitate transparency and reporting, agencies must by Feb 25, 2009 establish a page on their existing website dedicated to the Recovery Act (i.e.,, which will link to and will provide a single portal for all agency-specific information related to the Act.

Acting Comptroller General Gene Dodaro has also outlined the role of the Government Accountability Office in ARRA oversight. See his testimony before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs in which he discusses:

1) GAO's plans to carry out its responsibilities under the Recovery Act,

2) how GAO's responsibilities relate to other oversight authorities, such as the Inspectors General (IG) and the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board (Board), and

3) the challenges posed in ensuring accountability over the use of funds and associated lessons learned and best practices that can be helpful in addressing those challenges.

I. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration must launch the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (B-TOP). See Structuring NTIA and RUS Grant and Loan Programs

  • Senate approves Locke as commerce secretary March 24, 2009.
  • The NTIA will begin holding meetings with interested parties on Monday, March 2, 2009, in connection with the broadband grant programs described in the Broadband Data Services Improvement Act and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (collectively, "Broadband Grant Programs"). All interested parties are invited to schedule a meeting.
  • NTIA must publish funding opportunity announcements on by March 9, 2009.
  • In Putting the Angels in the Details: A Roadmap for Broadband Stimulus Success, Free Press calls on NTIA and RUS to:
    1. Protect the open Internet: The NTIA and FCC should prohibit grant recipients from selling any service that violates open Internet principles and should require recipients to offer interconnection on a reasonable and nondiscriminatory basis.
    2. Promote speed: The NTIA should establish speed guidelines and benchmarks and require grant applicants to detail actual -- not advertised -- network speeds, with priority given to next-generation projects.
    3. Provide clarity: The NTIA and FCC should adopt definitions of unserved and underserved areas that are based on U.S. Census Bureau geographic boundaries (either census blocks, block groups or tracts), and are informed by new FCC broadband data.
    4. Prevent waste: The NTIA should require grant applicants to provide extensive documentation showing how their proposed project qualifies as a new investment.
    5. Gather information: The FCC should immediately initiate proceedings to gather data and ideas to inform the national broadband strategy.
    6. Focus resources: The NTIA should refocus the $350 million currently allocated for state broadband mapping toward projects that work to stimulate broadband demand, because the FCC is already collecting this data.
    7. Remove roadblocks: The RUS should eliminate current regulations that restrict broadband upgrades, create barriers to new entrants and undermine competition.
    8. Ensure transparency: The NTIA and RUS should create a single, publicly accessible online database that hosts all the information relevant to the broadband projects funded by the Stimulus Act.
  • FCC Seeks Input on Role in Broadband Grants: The FCC is asking for public comment on the definitions of 5 terms: unserved, underserved, broadband, non-discrimination and interconnection obligations. Comments are due April 13, 2009.

II. The Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service (RUS) must publish a "Notice of Funding Availability." See Structuring NTIA and RUS Grant and Loan Programs

III. The NTIA must implement the Broadband Data Improvement Act and develop and maintain a comprehensive nationwide inventory map of existing broadband service from both commercial and public providers. By Feb 17, 2011, the NTIA is to make an interactive, searchable version of this map available via its website.

IV. The Federal Communications Commission must develop a National Broadband Strategy by Feb 17, 2010.

  • The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (2008 Farm Bill) directs the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission to develop, in consultation with the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, a comprehensive rural broadband strategy. On March 10, 2009, the FCC invited comments on how it and the USDA should implement this provision of the Farm Bill. Comments are due March 25 and the FCC plan is due to Congress May 22, 2009. The plan will inform the broader National Broadband Strategy.
  • On April 8, 2009, the FCC will issue a Notice of Inquiry on developing a National Broadband Plan.

V. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) must approve and the NTIA must begin issuing more digital-to-analog converter box coupons in accordance with the DTV Delay Act.

  • March 4, 2009: According to the Office of Management and Budget, the National Telecommunications & Information Administration now has access to funding to help unclog the DTV-to-analog converter box coupon program. "We apportioned these funds earlier this week; coupons will start being received next week," confirmed an OMB official.

VI. Department of Health and Human Services

Legislation Details

The original legislation data is included below.

Original Bill Title: 
H.R. 1 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009
Procedure Step: 
Signed into law

The Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration has released a Notice of Funds Available (NOFA) for the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program.

The Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service has released a Notice of Funds Available (NOFA) for the Broadband Initiatives Program.

Legislation Date: 
January 15, 2009