The Biden administration has unveiled an ambitious plan to provide broadband access to all Americans, including those currently underserved.
The United States has struggled for years with a “digital divide,” a huge disparity between the internet access available in urban vs rural areas. In fact, some 35% of Americans (over 30 million) don’t have access to “minimally acceptable speeds.”
The Biden administration wants to change that, with plans to invest $100 billion to help close that gap, and ensure all Americans have access to broadband. In a fact sheet detailing the plan, the administration emphasizes the need to “future proof” broadband options, especially in underserved communities. It also emphasizes the importance of community and government-run broadband options.
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.
Neither of these options are likely to be popular with many ISPs, although they have only their own business practices to blame. Companies have, for years, done the absolute minimum necessary to reap the maximize profits, rather than put their customers first. For example, AT&T announced late last year it would shutter its DSL service, even though it had halted further rollout of its fiber, leaving millions of customers without any good options.
Should the administration’s plans come to fruition, it may finally close the digital divide and bring all Americans into the 21st century.