Biden pledges $100bn on broadband for all Americans

Biden pledges $100bn on affordable broadband for all Americans

01 April 2021 | Natalie Bannerman

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President Joe Biden has unveiled his much-anticipated $2 trillion infrastructure plan, entitled the American Jobs Plan.

Covering everything from transport, manufacturing, education, innovation and social issues, the Biden Administration published its fact sheet highlighting the keys points of this multi-year plan.

Included within this roadmap was Biden’s $100 billion investment in affordable internet and broadband connectivity for all Americans by 2029.

The White House plan describes broadband internet as “…the new electricity” but “more than 30 million Americans live in areas where there is no broadband infrastructure that provides minimally acceptable speeds. Americans in rural areas and on tribal lands particularly lack adequate access.”

As such the plan it to reach “100% high-speed broadband coverage” with added support to be given to “broadband networks owned, operated by, or affiliated with local governments, non-profits, and co-operatives."

In addition, the plan will also tackle greater transparency and competition in the space “by lifting barriers that prevent municipally-owned or affiliated providers and rural electric co-ops from competing on an even playing field with private providers” and as us internet providers will be required to disclose their prices.

The cost of broadband services will also be examined as the President believes that “Americans pay too much for the internet” and will work with Congress to find a way to reduce these costs.

At the same time, the Administration is calling on Congress to make a further $180 billion investment in R&D that will see America take on the likes of China in its technology innovation.

Specifically, he hopes to invest $50 billion in the National Science Foundation, to create technology directorate that will collaborate with and build on existing programs across the government.

“It will focus on fields like semiconductors and advanced computing, advanced communications technology, advanced energy technologies, and biotechnology,” stated the fact sheet.

Response to the plan has been mixed with James P. Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense Media, a non-profit digital advocacy group saying: “The President’s broadband announcement is a win for every family and business in America, in every part of the country. Broadband for all is a policy whose time has come."

“The Biden plan would help to ensure every part of the country is connected to high-speed broadband at prices that make it more affordable for consumers. Everybody is a winner under this broadband plan. We look forward to working with the Administration and Congress to enact robust investments in broadband deployment and digital inclusion and to get moving on the next step in connecting all Americans.”

Greg Guice, government affairs director at Public Knowledge added: “President Biden’s $100 billion infrastructure plan acknowledges an important fact about broadband today — it is an essential service, like water and electricity, and our public policy should reflect that fact. By providing state, local, and Tribal governments funding and the flexibility necessary to ensure citizens have access to robust, future-proof networks, this plan will help us close the digital divide.

“Additionally, the plan focuses on the affordability barrier of the digital divide by calling for price transparency and efforts to promote competition.”

At the other end of the spectrum, Michael Powell, president and CEO of the NCTA, and former FCC chairman said: “The White House has elected to go big on broadband infrastructure, but it risks taking a serious wrong turn in discarding decades of successful policy by suggesting that the government is better suited than private-sector technologists to build and operate the internet. This shift is encouraged by mistakenly lumping in our successful modern digital networks with our decaying roads, bridges, waterways and electric grids.”

Interestingly at the time of the announcement, during the President’s address in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, Biden singled out Amazon for not paying federal taxes as announced the his plans to raise taxes on multinational companies and increasing the corporate tax rate in order to fund this infrastructure bill.

Under his proposed hikes, the corporate tax will jump from 21% to 28% from 21% and changes will also be made to prevent loopholes that allow companies to move funds overseas.

According Reuters, Biden said that Amazon was one of 91 Fortune 500 companies that “use various loopholes where they pay not a single solitary penny in federal income tax”.