Biden plans to connect every American to broadband

Telecommunications mast in a rural part of the UK at dusk
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The massive infrastructure plan that President Joe Biden has put on the table includes $100 billion that would connect every American household to broadband internet by the end of the decade.

The broadband initiative is just one part of a sweeping $2 trillion plan to improve the nation’s infrastructure and shift to greener energy over the next eight years. Biden unveiled the plan Wednesday, kicking off what will likely be lengthy negotiations with Congress.

Biden’s $100 billion package for broadband aims for 100% broadband coverage throughout the US by the end of the 2020s.

The plan is to bring broadband service to places where it doesn’t exist, and to speed up internet connectivity in areas where it’s slow. When the COVID-19 pandemic forced companies to send workers home to work remotely via their household internet connections, some workers in rural areas with limited internet connectivity found it challenging to complete daily tasks. The same thing happened in schools, as many students’ families can’t afford quality internet connections.

“It is necessary for Americans to do their jobs, to participate equally in school learning, health care, and to stay connected,” a fact sheet for Biden’s infrastructure plan reads. “Yet, by one definition, more than 30 million Americans live in areas where there is no broadband infrastructure that provides minimally acceptable speeds.”

The administration’s plan prioritizes networks affiliated with local governments, nonprofits, and cooperatives. It also seeks to lower the cost of internet service over the long term.

“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,” the fact sheet says.

Now that Democrats control Congress and the White House, they have big plans for broadband. Biden’s announcement comes only a few weeks after Congressional Democrats unveiled their own $94 billion proposal to make broadband more accessible and affordable nationwide.

It also comes weeks after Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act, a $1.9 trillion package designed to help US households hit by the pandemic. It included $7.1 billion in emergency connectivity funding for remote learning and cash injections for federal technology efforts.

That $7.1 billion includes money for schools and libraries to buy Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and connected devices for students to use while remote learning during the pandemic. This cash injection resulted from pressure from education advocates who petitioned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for funding in January.

And in February, the FCC announced a federal program to subsidize broadband costs for low-income households during the pandemic.