White House Pushes Fed-Funded $100 Billion Broadband Buildout Plan

The Biden administration is proposing that the Federal government take a giant leap into the national broadband service market – traditionally the province of the private sector – in order to close persistent service availability and affordability gaps across the United States.

Those areas are referred to as unserved, and underserved areas and often are associated with rural and mountain regions where service is difficult to provide because of terrain, and sparse and/or economically disadvantaged populations that make for lower potential financial returns on infrastructure investments.

The administration’s American Jobs Plan announced today proposes to close those gaps by bringing “affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband to every American through a historic investment of $100 billion.”

That big investment, the White House said, will result in 100 percent service coverage in the United States through the buildout of “future proof” broadband infrastructure.

The plan also promises to “prioritize” support for broadband networks owned or affiliated with local and tribal governments, which it says includes “providers with less pressure to turn profits and with a commitment to serving entire communities.”

The broadband investment plan, the Biden administration said, also will aim to “promote price transparency and competition” in the broadband service market by “lifting barriers that prevent municipally-owned or affiliated provider sand rural electric co-ops from competing on an even playing field with private providers, and requiring internet providers to clearly disclose the prices they charge.”

The White House plan also wades into the historically murky waters of broadband service pricing. While the plan gives a nod to shorter-term subsidies to consumers in order to make broadband service affordable, it also says they are not “the right long-term solution for consumers and taxpayers.”

“Americans pay too much for the internet – much more than people in many other countries – and the President is committed to working with Congress to find a solution to reduce internet prices for all Americans, increase adoption in both rural and urban areas, hold providers accountable, and save taxpayers money,” the White House said.

Elsewhere in the sweeping $2 trillion spending plan, the White House proposes new Federal investments to build a more resilient electric transmission system so “we can move cheaper, cleaner electricity to where it is needed most.” The plan proposes the creation of a new Grid Deployment Authority at the Department of Energy to help with rights-of-way and “creative financing tools” that will help in the construction of “additional high priority” high-voltage transmission lines.

John Curran
About John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk SLG's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.