As the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act awaits a vote in the House of Representatives later this month, a debate over the future of the Federal Communications Commission's Universal Service Fund (USF) is already starting. Provisions in the infrastructure bill call for the FCC to quickly complete an evaluation of how the legislation will impact how the FCC's achieves the goal of deploying broadband to all Americans. Congress wants to know how the FCC can be more effective in achieving this goal. One brewing USF issue is how we pay for it.
New research from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, Expanding Broadband in the Black Rural South, highlights the importance of addressing the digital divide—and doing it as soon as possible. The Joint Center examined the overlooked and unique plight of Black residents in rural counties with populations that are at least 35 percent Black (152 counties in 10 Southern states), which the Joint Center refers to as the “Black Rural So
As the debate about investing in broadband infrastructure continues in Washington this month, it was heartening to see that President Joseph Biden acted to address competition in residential broadband service. Here's a quick look at what he did. On July 9, President Biden signed an Executive Order launching a "whole-of-government" effort to promote competition across the economy. The Executive Order includes 72 initiatives.
On June 3, Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, and Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland announced the availability of nearly $1 billion in National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) grants to expand broadband access and adoption on Tribal lands. "Indigenous communities have shaped our nation throughout our history," said Vice President Harris.
Typically, the Department of Treasury is outside the scope of broadband policy. But in March, President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act, directing Treasury to disperse many, many billions of dollars to help State, local, and Tribal governments respond to the pandemic. And these billions may be used to expand access to broadband.
This week, the Federal Communications Commission adopted rules for the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program, providing $7.171 billion for schools and libraries for the purchase of connected devices and broadband connections for use by students, school staff, and library patrons at locations other than a school or library.
In the coming days, we will see major progress on a $10+ billion federal investment in digital inclusion. This moment is unprecedented. We've never seen such a large commitment to making broadband service affordable for all. And, as Congress starts to focus on long-term solutions for universal broadband, we're seeing the potential for more digital inclusion investment in the coming months.
Despite clear evidence to the contrary, lobbyists have long claimed that U.S. broadband is extremely competitive and incredibly affordable.