New month, new infrastructure bill: $1 trillion total, $65 billion to broadband
by Paul Davenport Paul Davenport on

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The latest bipartisan iteration of the United States Senate’s proposed infrastructure bill has landed with a $1 trillion price tag that allocates $65 billion toward bridging the “digital divide.”

“Access to affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband is essential to full participation in modern life in the United States,” the legislation, which was released on August 2, states. The new bill goes on to emphasize the nation’s reliance on telehealth, remote schooling, and online bill pay over the course of the pandemic, and the need to future-proof existing connections while establishing first-time broadband access for underserved communities.

Despite the latest bill’s hefty allocation toward building a broadband infrastructure, the figures are significantly less than the Biden administration’s original targets of $100 billion. The new bill still aims to bring broadband access to the more than 30 million Americans estimated to live in areas where there is no broadband infrastructure in place, however, though the new legislation puts a greater emphasis on public-private partnerships than past versions of the bill.

A key part of the bill that survived multiple iterations is language from the Digital Equity Act unveiled this past March, which aims to equitably spread access to affordable broadband packages to low-income Americans while promoting greater digital literacy. This includes allocating $14 billion to convert an emergency pandemic-era program that gave monthly subsidies to low-income Americans to pay for internet service into a permanent Affordable Connectivity Fund that delivers $30 a month to eligible Americans.

While the finer details are yet to be nailed down, upwards of $42 billion would go toward grants directly funding service improvements, with at least $100 million reserved for distribution across the 50 states and another $100 million to be split between American territories.

The new infrastructure package is poised to quickly go to a vote in the Senate before it moves to the U.S. House, where the bipartisan bill faces lingering opposition from both sides of the aisle that could further delay when funds actually get allocated.

“This is a really important bill because it takes our aging and outdated infrastructure in this country and modernizes it. And that’s good for everybody,” said Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, a Republican coauthor of the bill. “We’re getting it right tonight for the American people, for our economy, and for the future of our great country.”

Bridging the digital divide for 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.

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.

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).

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Filed Under: Industry Insights

Tags: network management, network monitoring, network performance monitoring, hybrid work, work from home, work from anywhere, online transactions, telehealth, remote school, remote work, congress, digital equity act, internet access, internet, digital divide, broadband, sentate, bill, infrastructure

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