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Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson January 12, 2022

Signing of bipartisan infrastructure bill is major step forward for broadband promise

President Joe Biden's promise to expand broadband internet to every American took a major step forward with his signing of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act on Nov. 15, 2021.

The law included many items from Biden's agenda. It was negotiated by a bipartisan group of senators, then passed with bipartisan support in both the Senate and the House.

The roughly $1 trillion measuer includes sections on roads, bridges, waterways, railways, and the electric grid. But it also includes about $65 billion for improving broadband internet access, particularly in rural areas and for lower-income Americans.

It will send more than $42 billion in grant money to states to improve internet access.

"This bill will help address several issues as it relates to access, affordability, and transparency," Jonathan Schwantes, senior policy counsel at Consumer Reports, wrote shortly after the bill's enactment. "This bipartisan effort is critical for ensuring that more Americans, especially the most vulnerable, have a connection to high-speed internet." 

The investments in the bipartisan infrastructure law come on top of funding included in the American Rescue Plan, the coronavirus and economic relief law signed by Biden just weeks into his presidency. The legislation included $350 billion for states to improve their infrastructure, some of which could be spent on broadband, as well as a separate provision called the Capital Projects Fund that could also be used for broadband projects.

The bill's signing is a major step forward, but we'll hold off on crediting Biden with keeping this promise until we see how smoothly the provisions in the laws are implemented on the ground. This remains In the Works.

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Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson June 10, 2021

Biden’s infrastructure plan proposes $100 billion for broadband expansion

Joe Biden made a bold promise as a candidate in 2020 — that he'd expand broadband to every American. It's still early, but he made the pledge concrete by including it in his American Jobs Plan, which was his opening proposal in the quest for an infrastructure bill.

In his proposal, Biden compared the need for broadband Internet to the need to electrify the country generations earlier. He said he would "bring affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband to every American, including the more than 35% of rural Americans who lack access to broadband at minimally acceptable speeds."

Specifically, Biden would spend $100 billion to extend broadband infrastructure in underserved areas, prioritizing support for networks affiliated with local governments, nonprofit groups, and cooperatives.

He also proposed increased transparency and competition among internet providers and opened the door to subsidizing individual users who could not otherwise afford access, but the proposal did not include details.

So far, Biden has introduced only a broad outline of legislation he'd like to see; there is no formal bill yet. And passing legislation — which may or may not ultimately include money for broadband  expansion — promises to be a heavy lift.

In fact, bipartisan negotiations over the American Jobs Plan have so far struggled to produce a workable agreement, amid concerns expressed by Republicans that the program costs too much. And in the Senate, support from 60 senators would be required to advance to a final vote, unless Democrats can find a way to pass a measure using the reconciliation process, which requires only a simple majority.

Still, the inclusion of this promise in a high-profile presidential initiative is enough to move it to In the Works.

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