(Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama announced on Friday nearly $800 million in loans and grants for the build-out of broadband networks to reach homes, schools and hospitals.
The grants and loans, which will be matched by another $200 million in private investment, is part of Obama’s roughly $800 billion federal stimulus package, which includes $7.2 billion for broadband expansion projects.
Obama said the 66 new infrastructure projects will directly create 5,000 jobs and help spur economic development in some of the nation’s hardest-hit communities.
The announcement comes amid news that U.S. employment fell for the first time this year in June as thousands of temporary census jobs ended and private hiring grew less than expected.
“Once we emerge from the immediate crisis, the long-term economic gains to communities that have been left behind in the digital age will be immeasurable,” Obama said at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.