The Biden administration’s mammoth “American Jobs Plan” announced Wednesday includes substantial investments in technology, including broadband access for “every American.” To do so, President Biden wants $100 billion.
More than 114 million households already subscribed to high-speed internet services, according to data news site Statista. But millions don’t have access to broadband due to lack of availability from providers.
Reacation to the plan was not entirely positive.
“[W]e urge the Administration to rapidly undertake detailed broadband mapping, connect American households using the technology that is most cost-effective for each particular community, revamp the Lifeline Program [subsidies] with a larger monthly benefit and expanded base of funding, and continue the time-honored, light-touch policies that encourage market competition in the rapidly evolving technology sector,” said the Internet Innovation Alliance in a statement.
Doug Brake, Director of Broadband and Spectrum Policy at the nonpartisan Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, was much more critical, saying the eight-year plan “goes overboard.”
In a statement, he noted:
“Biden’s broadband infrastructure plan goes overboard and threatens to undermine the system of private competition that successfully serves most of the United States.
“No doubt, the United States sorely needs subsidies for rural broadband, but this isn’t an area to turn all the dials up to 11.
“If not properly targetted, such a large investment risks undermining incentives for private capital to invest even where it can do so profitably, which ultimately erodes the engine of innovation for next-generation connectivity.”
The Biden plan
Here is the broadband portion of the plan:
“The President believes we can bring affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband to every American through a historic investment of $100 billion. That investment will:
- Build high-speed broadband infrastructure to reach 100 percent coverage.
The President’s plan prioritizes building “future proof” broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas so that we finally reach 100 percent high-speed broadband coverage. It also prioritizes support for broadband networks owned, operated by, or affiliated with local governments, non-profits, and co-operatives—providers with less pressure to turn profits and with a commitment to serving entire communities. Moreover, it ensures funds are set aside for infrastructure on tribal lands and that tribal nations are consulted in program administration. Along the way, it will create good-paying jobs with labor protections and the right to organize and bargain collectively.
- Promote transparency and competition.
President Biden’s plan will promote price transparency and competition among internet providers, including by lifting barriers that prevent municipally-owned or affiliated providers and rural electric co-ops from competing on an even playing field with private providers, and requiring internet providers to clearly disclose the prices they charge.
- Reduce the cost of broadband internet service and promote more widespread adoption.
President Biden believes that building out broadband infrastructure isn’t enough. We also must ensure that every American who wants to can afford high-quality and reliable broadband internet. While the President recognizes that individual subsidies to cover internet costs may be needed in the short term, he believes continually providing subsidies to cover the cost of overpriced internet service is not the right long-term solution for consumers or taxpayers. Americans pay too much for the internet – much more than people in many other countries – and the President is committed to working with Congress to find a solution to reduce internet prices for all Americans, increase adoption in both rural and urban areas, hold providers accountable, and save taxpayer money.