US to Spend $100B to Expand Broadband

John Lister's picture

The US government plans to spend $100 billion to expand broadband availability in the US. The goal is that all Americans should have access to "affordable" high-speed broadband by 2029.

The spending is part of a planned infrastructure bill, so it's possible the broadband measures may not survive the legislative process.

It's a clear sign that the government views Internet access as a key utility, with the broadband measures coming alongside spending to upgrade water networks and electricity grids. Indeed, a White House explanation directly compares the broadband move to the 1936 Rural Electrification Act that spent public money to bring electricity supplies to places that didn't yet have supply. (Source: theguardian.com)

Non-Profits Prioritized

A key part of the broadband measures is spending money to subsidize building broadband networks in areas not yet reached through either the commercial sector not existing public spending.

The proposals may prove controversial as the subsidies will be prioritized to networks "owned, operated by, or affiliated with local governments, non-profits, and co-operative." The White House says such network operators are more likely to do what it takes to reach everyone in an area rather than put profit first. (Source: whitehouse.gov)

Pricing Still Problematic

Supporters of market competition will find something to like in the proposals however. The plan will include measures to lift barriers that limit the ability of municipal-controlled networks to compete with commercial providers. It will also force broadband providers to be more open about their pricing, a move designed to boost competition and consumer choice.

The proposals also acknowledge that cost of service can be as big a problem as availability for some householders. The White House says it's not a viable long-term solution to spend public money subsidizing broadband networks that are "overpriced" for consumers. However, while it says it's committed to solving this, it doesn't offer much in the way of concrete ideas.

What's Your Opinion?

How important is it that all citizens have access to affordable broadband? Should the government be spending public funds to increase broadband access? What's your definition of affordable Internet and what do you count as an adequate speed?

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Comments

Navy vet's picture

The government should stay out of it. Private industry is not their business. It is not the government's job to build charging stations all over the country either.

Commenter's picture

Private industry won't do it. They just won't. The ROI (return on investment) isn't high enough. Who would spend a couple million to bring in a couple hundred thousand a year from people out in rural areas when they could spend that money in the city and get a couple million a year in profits? (example amounts off the top of my head)

We get our electricity from an electric co-op because private industry wouldn't bring electricity to our area. The ROI wasn't worth it. We probably still wouldn't have electricity if it were up to private industry. Our parents or grandparents subsidized the infrastructure costs.

We don't have cell service (even though those coverage maps say we do. They are ... mistaken.) We have to drive around and find a spot where we can get a bar or two on our phones. It's like wardriving, only it's celldriving.)

Last year I started working from home due to COVID. Our TOP network speed at home through our phone line (ONE company offers phone service here) is 4 Mbps. (Spoiler: it's never 4 Mbps.) Video meetings often turn into nothing but buffering, blocky squares, and sometimes totally drop. During the time my son has school classes, I have to worm around work needing done online so he can kind of connect to his classes. Thank G-d he's in college and doesn't have classes all day.

I'm getting laid off this week or next. Video employment interviews are iffy on the best days. Few places are having in-person interviews. What do you want me to do - go sit in the McDonald's parking lot or pull to the side of the road in one of the places where I can get cell service and have an interview with the cows in the background? (I'm not exaggerating.)

I used to think like you do. It looked like people were getting you and me to pay for things they should be paying for, or else they should do without like my family and I did. Then we got tired of living in the city where things got stolen, people vandalized and broke into our house and car, and our house was torched. We moved to the country and last spring we found out that things like Internet service aren't the luxuries we thought they were.

I probably haven't convinced you, but hey, maybe you'll think about it a little. If you still don't see my point, turn off your phone, internet service, and electricity and try harder. I'm sure you are open-minded enough to try it out for a month and then get back to me on it. I'm set to get all replies to this page, so I'll know when you reply.

Have a good day. I'll see you in a month.

russoule's picture

so your parents and grandparents formed a co-op to provide for electrification? why don't YOU form a co-op for broadband service? it is no more expensive in today's dollars than the electrification was in yesterday's dollars and a co-op would thereafter control what the pricing of the service was. WHY does everyone who wants somethhing always ask or demand that the TAXPAYERS pay for it? "We want more parks!" becomes "You need to pay more in property taxes so WE can enjoy the public parks". or in this case, "We are falling behind because we don't have broadband. We don't want to move to where broadband is available, so the TAXPAYERS need to build it for us!" I'm a taxpayer and there will be NO BENEFIT to me from paying for your broadband.

jimain's picture

I've seen kids clustered around retail wifi spots to attend school for too long. And I know several seniors unable to figure out how to use their tools to schedule covid tests and vaccinations. Both groups are falling way behind the rest of the world.
The internet accessibility in my area was brought by a large federal project that needed it and by a group of rural communities to get the ball rolling in the Inland Northwest. It's important now for every resident of the USA.

kitekrazy's picture

It never benefits We the People unless you are elected or serve on a CEO board. There are plenty of straw man arguments.