What’s In The Broadband Component Of The Infrastructure Bill

The Senate passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and awaits passage in the House.  Here’s an overview of the broadband portion of the $1 trillion package.

What’s in the $65 billion broadband package

·      $42.45 billion to states and territories to focus on unserved and underserved areas of the country. At least $100 million is reserved for each of the 50 states. It is important that this money remain technologically neutral, going to the technology that states and local leaders choose as appropriate for their communities. An earlier version of the bill had discriminatory provisions which would have privileged government networks over private ones, an anti-competitive action.

·      From an economics and digital rights perspective, the closer the money is to the end user, the better. As such, the bill wisely provides a $14.2 billion subsidy directly to qualified low-income users. This is an extension an FCC Covid-19 program now permanent as the Affordable Connectivity Fund, which provides a $30 discount on service for qualifying households and can be used for the consumer’s choice of plan. This will offer an important opportunity to study consumer choice. Many broadband advocates assert that consumers must have the highest speed to use broadband, but data shows that people chose lower speeds that is sufficient for their needs. Speed requirements are some of the dumbest parts of federal policy because it suggests that bureaucrats know better than end users.

·      The bill includes $2.75 billion for the Digital Equity Act, programs to stimulate adoption like digital literacy for seniors. 

·      $2 billion for United States Department of Agriculture rural broadband programs.

·      $2 billion for Tribal broadband.

·      $1 billion for middle-mile connections to build a high-speed backbone for communities, businesses, and anchor institutions

·      $600 million for tax exempt Private Activity Bonds (PABs).

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