Infrastructure Bill Breakdown: $65 billion for broadband access
by Paul Davenport Paul Davenport on

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The Biden Administration’s long-debated Infrastructure Bill (or at least a big portion of it) is one presidential signature away from being put into action.

Along with a focus on updating the United States’ roads, rails and public transit infrastructure, $65 billion of the $1.2 trillion price tag will go to increasing broadband access; both in terms of literal availability and affordability for underserved communities.

While earlier iterations of the bill earmarked $100 billion toward broadband, the latest $65 billion allocation will still include hefty payouts at the federal and state levels to both lay actual cables as well as set up broadband equity programs to make access more affordable.

The Commerce Department’s telecom division will oversee the dispersal of $42.5 billion, which will largely go to establishing physical broadband infrastructure in areas that proved glaringly underserved at the height of the pandemic, when knowledge workers were largely confined to working from home.

“The fact of the matter is we have to close the digital divide. Period,” said Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo in a press conference on Tuesday, November 9. “Beyond the physical infrastructure — laying fiber — affordability is just as important […] It does a family no good if there’s broadband in their community but they can’t afford it.”

Beyond the initiatives led by the Commerce Department, each state will receive $100 million toward establishing their own broadband programs and infrastructure. From there, the rest of the money will be allocated “based on need,” according to the bill, with additional funding linked to the number of households that are underserved in each state.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will get $14.2 billion as part of an extension of the pandemic-era Emergency Broadband Benefit that currently provides a $30 monthly subsidy to eligible households to help pay their internet bills.

The rest of the package breaks down spending as follows:

  • $2.75 billion for a Digital Equity Program to ensure that “individuals and communities have the information technology capacity that is needed for full participation in the society and economy of the United States”
  • $2 billion for RUS ReConnect
  • $2 billion for the Tribal Broadband Program
  • $1 billion for a new middle-mile program overseen by NTIA
  • $600 million for Private Activity Bonds for broadband deployments

Expanding broadband access couldn’t come at a better time, as more workers than ever are expressing an interest in remote work and the “digital nomad” lifestyle that universal Internet access affords them.

But at its heart, bridging the digital divide is really a matter of equity and leveling the playing field for rural or underserved areas when it comes to jobs access. With the pandemic showing that proximity to the main office isn’t a major factor in an individual or team’s ability to succeed and be productive, folks that may not be able to afford living in a traditionally expensive hub city can still get a fair chance at a well-paying job.

No matter what infrastructure improvements take place in the future, IT will require a more diverse and scalable toolset to deliver on ever-higher employee expectations, regardless of where they are located (or even their ISP).

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Filed Under: Industry Insights

Tags: hybrid work , remote work , work from home , network performance monitoring , network management , work from anywhere , digital divide , Biden , Infrastructure Bill , commerce department , commerce , FCC , telecom , wireless , cable , infrastructure , internet , internet access , wifi , broadband

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