What's in the Budget for Broadband?

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

Friday, March 15, 2024

Weekly Digest

What's in the Budget for Broadband?

 You’re reading the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society’s Weekly Digest, a recap of the biggest (or most overlooked) broadband stories of the week. The digest is delivered via e-mail each Friday.

Round-Up for the Week of March 11-15, 2024

Grace Tepper

This week, the Biden-Harris Administration announced its proposed 2025 fiscal year (FY) budget. According to the White House, President Biden's top economic priority in the FY 2025 budget is to lower costs for American consumers–reducing junk fees, lowering healthcare costs, and the prices of everyday goods and services. Broadband programs play a key role in these efforts, reflecting a priority to connect US residents and bring the opportunities that the internet has to offer. Here we look at how the FY 2025 budget is promoting broadband for all.

Lowering Costs for Broadband Consumers

The Biden-Harris Administration's proposed budget allocates funding to a couple of broadband programs that work to lower costs for consumers and promote broadband infrastructure deployment.

The Affordable Connectivity Program

The largest amount of broadband funding in the proposed budget is devoted to the Federal Communications Commission's Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). Over 23 million eligible low-income households have gained low- or no-cost access to the internet through the ACP, which offers a $30/month subsidy to eligible households and $75/month for eligible Tribal households.

The budget includes the Administration’s pending supplemental request for $6 billion to continue the Affordable Connectivity Program in 2024. The Administration also explicitly states its determination to work with Congress to secure additional funding for this important need in 2025 and beyond.

The ReConnect Program

Under the current Administration and through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has provided $2.3 billion to expand broadband access to people living and working in rural areas across 35 states and territories. These efforts are expected to connect more than 137,000 households.

USDA's  Rural eConnectivity Loan and Grant (ReConnect) Program furnishes loans and grants to provide lower the costs of construction, improvement, or acquisition of facilities and equipment needed to provide broadband service in eligible rural areas, especially Tribal areas. ReConnect funding recipients must commit to achieving speeds of 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) symmetrical service upon completion of their deployment using program funds.

The budget proposes $112 million in future funding for the ReConnect program.

Additionally, the application window for the fifth round of ReConnect funding will open on March 22, 2024, and close on May 21, 2024, at 11:59 a.m. Eastern. The Notice of Funding Opportunity for this round of the program was released in February 2024.

Bolstering Antitrust Enforcement

The Biden-Harris budget proposes $288 million for the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ)—an increase of $63 million over the 2023 enacted level and $103 million over the 2021 enacted level—to strengthen antitrust enforcement efforts to promote vigorous marketplace competition and reduce costs and raise wages for the American people.

This 288 million requested by the DOJ includes a program increase of $13.7 million and 83 positions for increased antitrust enforcement, $14.9 million for technology and data modernization support, and $23.9 million for information technology operations sustainment.

Supporting Digital Services

The budget proposal sustains investment in the U.S. Digital Service (USDS) to continue helping agencies confront some of their hardest issues. USDS staff are centrally recruited into the government from the private sector and deployed into agencies to assist with critical projects, buttressing existing personnel with new skills and expertise. Over the past ten years, USDS has successfully helped agencies modernize their technical operations and minimize the risk of large IT projects, over 60 percent of which have historically failed without the intervention of USDS.

For example, USDS is supporting the Internal Revenue Service in its technology transformation, modernizing decades-old systems and improving taxpayer services, the Department of Health and Human Service (HHS) in streamlining the enrollment and renewal process for Medicaid coverage, including saving half a million children from erroneously losing their health insurance, and the Federal Communications Commission in its efforts to bring affordable, reliable, and high-speed broadband to eligible households.

What's Next for the Budget?

President Biden often says, "My father had an expression: 'Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your budget—and I’ll tell you what you value.'" The Biden-Harris Administration's proposed 2025 budget shows that its broadband values lie in promoting affordable broadband and deploying adequate high-speed broadband to consumers in hard-to-reach areas.

Quick Bits

Weekend Reads (resist tl;dr)

ICYMI from Benton

Upcoming Events

Mar 20––The Way Forward for U.S. Spectrum Policy (Information Technology & Innovation Foundation)

Mar 20––Life After ACP (Institute for Local Self-Reliance)

Mar 25––The Right Connection (CENIC)

Apr 4––Consumer Advisory Committee Meeting (FCC)

Apr 9––Broadband Equity is Local (Community Broadband Action Network)

Apr 17––2024 Bipartisan Tech Policy Conference (Next Century Cities)

Apr 25––April 2024 Open Federal Communications Commission Meeting (FCC)

May 23––May 2024 Open Federal Communications Commission Meeting (FCC)

Jun 6-7––2024 Conference on Artificial Intelligence & Financial Stability (US Dept of Treasury)

The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that all people in the U.S. have access to competitive, High-Performance Broadband regardless of where they live or who they are. We believe communication policy - rooted in the values of access, equity, and diversity - has the power to deliver new opportunities and strengthen communities.

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Kevin Taglang

Kevin Taglang
Executive Editor, Communications-related Headlines
Benton Institute
for Broadband & Society
1041 Ridge Rd, Unit 214
Wilmette, IL 60091
headlines AT benton DOT org

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