The US aims to deliver 100-percent high-speed broadband coverage within the next decade, part of a far-reaching new Infrastructure Plan revealed by President Biden today. The strategy document includes tackling American road, rail, and other transit shortcomings, replacing and repairing crumbling infrastructure, building out more access to digital services like internet connections, and making sure essential services like electricity aren’t knocked out by natural disasters like that which took huge swathes of Texas offline earlier in the year.
For internet connectivity, it’s a reflection of the ongoing imbalance between availability of broadband options, something which has been highlighted during the pandemic. With more people working from home, and their children forced into home-schooling and remote schooling, the shortcomings of some areas when it comes to getting online have been stark.
“Broadband internet is the new electricity,” the White House said in notes on the new Infrastructure Plan released today. “It is necessary for Americans to do their jobs, to participate equally in school learning, health care, and to stay connected. Yet, by one definition, 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. And, in part because the United States has some of the highest broadband prices among OECD countries, millions of Americans can’t use broadband internet even if the infrastructure exists where they live.”
The goal, therefore, is building “future proof” infrastructure so that unserved and underserved areas finally get connected, and at decent speeds. It’ll prioritize investment and support for service providers which are owned or affiliated with local governments, non-profits, and co-operatives. At the same time, it’ll ensure tribal lands get equal footing for broadband provisions.
Internet providers will need to be more transparent on their pricing, and the plan also pushes for cuts to the cost of broadband access. That will involve continuing subsidies for low-income users, at least for the short-term, but the plan will also push for cutting the costs of internet access overall. “Americans pay too much for the internet,” Biden’s plan points out, “much more than people in many other countries.”
In tandem, there’ll be investment in pushing American technology and R&D. That, Biden hopes, will restore momentum to US businesses in the tech race.
“Based on bipartisan proposals, President Biden is calling on Congress to invest $50 billion in the National Science Foundation (NSF), creating a technology directorate that will collaborate with and build on existing programs across the government,” the plan suggests. “It will focus on fields like semiconductors and advanced computing, advanced communications technology, advanced energy technologies, and biotechnology. He also is calling on Congress to provide $30 billion in additional funding for R&D that spurs innovation and job creation, including in rural areas.”
The Biden plan has earmarked $100 billion for the broadband push, though that figure pales in comparison to the total amount. In all, the new Infrastructure Plan is expected to top $2 trillion.