The US is considered to be a developed country and yet, it still suffers from broadband issues— high service cost, internet inaccessibility to certain areas, and low-speed internet.
The government has finally taken a huge initiative to resolve these issues as the Biden administration proposed a $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan. From this, $100 billion will be allocated to an eight-year infrastructure plan to establish “future-proof” broadband. The said plan aims to get millions of Americans online powered by low-cost and high-speed internet.
Although this plan sounds promising, the details of its implementation are still in a grey area. However, it is noteworthy that this move implies a new vision of activist government finally taking matters into its hands rather than leaving the problem to private companies.
Larry Irving, the Clinton administration’s top telecom official, commended Biden’s redefinition of the digital divide as Biden acknowledged poverty as a more significant indicator of internet inaccessibility than geography.
Bridging the digital divide
The digital divide was made worse by the pandemic as millions of Americans from rural and even urban areas find themselves scarce of internet connectivity. According to the White House, more than 30 million do not have access to high-speed internet, while millions cannot pay for it.
Even after spending billions of dollars to extend the reach of broadband providers to rural and isolated communities, the divide still persists. A government watchdog report revealed that $47.3 billion was spent on these programs in the years 2009 to 2017. In the next decade, $20 billion is allocated for rural broadband and $9 billion for 5G wireless internet in urban areas. The pandemic has also forced the government to enact three heavily-funded broadband relief programs.
Gigi Sohn, a former FCC official during the Obama administration, raised her concern about the low-speed internet in rural areas. The current administration is set to turn things around as it tries to build “future-proof” networks in rural and isolated areas.