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Latest infrastructure bill: $65 billion toward broadband
by Paul Davenport Paul Davenport on

The latest iteration of the Biden Administration’s signature infrastructure plan is now a $1.2 trillion bipartisan bill that allocates $65 billion toward universal high-speed broadband. If passed, the plan calls for state and local investment in new broadband infrastructure as well as auctioning off 5G Spectrum to fund rural broadband expansion.

The new bill is scaled back from the administration’s original $2.25 billion infrastructure plan, which included $100 billion for broadband expansion. While the new figure is still a major step in bridging the nation’s digital divide, experts urge the Biden administration to view the new $65 billion price tag as a “down payment” on larger infrastructure overhauls in the future.

At a June 29 Public Knowledge event, former Federal Communications Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said Congress must “go big and bold, or get stuck with old and slow,” when referring to the revised broadband package, emphasizing a need for broadband “affordability, universality, and future-proofing.”

Biden spoke about the digital divide when pitching the original infrastructure package back in March. In his remarks, Biden acknowledged his Administration’s plan aims to grant broadband access to the more than 30 million Americans that currently lack it, while making broadband more affordable for those in urban markets.

The administration still aims to accomplish their goals with the scaled back funding. Most importantly, the bill still needs to pass in Congress, which means there could be further iterations of the bipartisan plan to improve it’s odds of success.

Broadband enabling the future of work

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. Thirty-nine percent of adults polled by Bloomberg say they would quit if their employer took away remote work privileges, while 49 percent of Millenials and Gen Z would leave their job if their employer backtracked on worker flexibility.

The top benefit of remote work reported by respondents was a lack of commute, which was the biggest stressor among 84 percent, while general cost savings were the second largest benefit, as more than a third of those polled saved at least $5,000 working from home last year.

Expanding broadband access is also a matter of equity, 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.

Another tenet of Biden’s plan is that it aims to help foster increased competition in the broadband market, while removing obstacles that currently prevent municipally owned or affiliated providers and rural co-ops from competing fairly with private companies.

With the majority of Americans hoping to work from home in some capacity after the pandemic, increased affordable broadband access will be essential to the future of the enterprise. But enabling remote work requires a lot more than just sufficient Internet capacity out to knowledge workers.

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).

Filed Under: industry insights

Tags: hybrid work, remote work, work from home, work from anywhere, internet, Biden, Biden Administration, congress, senate, bill, suburban, urban, rural broadbnad, expansion, infrastructure, broadband

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