On Wednesday, President Biden introduced the American Jobs Plan, “an investment in America that will create millions of good jobs, rebuild our country’s infrastructure, and position the United States to out-compete China.” The plan provides a record $100 billion investment to close the digital divide through improving infrastructure, providing price transparency and competition, and reducing the cost of broadband internet service.
The $100 billion investment is designed to build high-speed broadband infrastructure reaching everywhere. The press release stated that the plan “prioritizes building ‘future proof’ broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas so that we finally reach 100 percent high-speed broadband coverage.” It will also prioritize supporting “broadband networks owned, operated by, or affiliated with local governments, non-profits, and co-operatives – providers with less pressure to turn profits and with a commitment to serving entire communities.”
Part of the purpose of this measure is to ensure tribal lands receive coverage. The plan is also designed to promote price transparency and competition between internet providers, this includes removing barriers keeping some providers, including municipally owned or affiliated providers and rural electric co-ops, from fairly competing with private providers. According to the press release, through working with Congress to develop solutions, the plan will reduce the cost of broadband internet service.
The press release noted that broadband “is necessary for Americans to do their jobs, to participate equally in school learning, health care, and to stay connected.” Reportedly, more than 30 million Americans, particularly those that live in rural areas or on tribal lands, “live in areas where there is no broadband infrastructure that provides minimally acceptable speeds.” Moreover, because of high broadband prices, “millions of Americans can’t use broadband internet even if the infrastructure exists where they live.” The press release also pointed to disparities in urban areas. The record investment seeks to remedy this disparity and allow all Americans to have affordable high-speed broadband access.
This effort is one of many to address the “digital divide.” For example, representatives introduced a bill to expand affordable broadband access to those living in federally subsidized housing and a house committee introduced 28 broadband-related bills. Additionally the Federal Communications Commission had multiple initiatives, including the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, and the Rural Tribal Priority Window program.