Biden targets $100B for universal broadband access in $2T plan

U.S. President Joe Biden outlined a plan to allocate $100 billion to fund broadband improvements with the goal of achieving 100% coverage by 2030, as part of a newly unveiled $2 trillion infrastructure package.

Among other things, the legislation would prioritize construction of “future proof” broadband infrastructure, as well as networks owned by “providers with less pressure to turn profits,” including local governments, non-profit organizations and co-operatives.

It would also require internet providers to “clearly disclose” pricing, as part of a bid to remove obstacles that prevent municipally-owned providers and co-ops “from competing on an even playing field” with private companies. Finally, it would seek to reduce the cost of broadband to boost adoption in both rural and urban areas.

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A press release issued by the White House noted more than 35% of rural citizens in the country lack access to broadband service offering “minimally acceptable speeds,” which the government defines as 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload.

On a background call with media, a senior administration official called the internet “the electricity of the 21st century,” adding Biden’s plan aims to achieve “universal access to affordable broadband in this decade.”

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Biden’s proposal elicited praise from the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA), which said in a statement the president’s focus was “right on target.”

However, analyst Blair Levin with New Street Research, noted much hinges on how the final legislation defines terms such as “future proof” and “affordable.”

For example, Levin said if only fiber is viewed as “future proof,” then wireless technologies such as 5G and satellite could be left ineligible for funding. Similarly, he pointed out implementation could look very different depending on whether “affordable” is used to refer to average broadband costs or entry-level pricing.

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The bill must be approved by Congress and signed by the President to become law.