New US president Joe Biden has announced a sweeping infrastructure plan which includes USD100 billion worth of funding to connect unserved Americans to high speed broadband services. The funding forms part of the ‘The American Jobs Plan’, which Biden hopes will ‘create millions of good jobs, rebuild our country’s infrastructure, and position the United States to out-compete China’.
A Fact Sheet issued by the White House notes: ‘Broadband internet is the new electricity. It is necessary for Americans to do their jobs, to participate equally in school learning, health care, and to stay connected. Yet, by one definition, more than 30 million Americans live in areas where there is no broadband infrastructure that provides minimally acceptable speeds. Americans in rural areas and on tribal lands particularly lack adequate access.’
Interestingly, the document adds: ‘President Biden’s plan will promote price transparency and competition among internet providers, including by lifting barriers that prevent municipally-owned or affiliated providers and rural electric co-ops from competing on an even playing field with private providers, and requiring internet providers to clearly disclose the prices they charge.’
In addition, Biden has taken aim at the high prices currently charged for broadband access in the US. The document explains: ‘While the President recognises that individual subsidies to cover internet costs may be needed in the short term, he believes continually providing subsidies to cover the cost of overpriced internet service is not the right long-term solution for consumers or taxpayers. Americans pay too much for the internet – much more than people in many other countries – and the President is committed to working with Congress to find a solution to reduce internet prices for all Americans, increase adoption in both rural and urban areas, hold providers accountable, and save taxpayer money.’