My Plan to Invest in Rural America: A Public Option for Broadband
I will make sure every home in America has a fiber broadband connection at a price families can afford. That means publicly-owned and operated networks — and no giant Internet service providers running away with taxpayer dollars. My plan will:
- Make it clear in federal statute that municipalities have the right to build their own broadband networks.
- Create an Office of Broadband Access in my Department of Economic Development that will manage a new $85 billion federal grant program to massively expand broadband access across the country. Under my plan, only electricity and telephone cooperatives, non-profit organizations, tribes, cities, counties, and other state subdivisions will be eligible for grants from this fund — and all grants will be used to build the fiber infrastructure necessary to bring high-speed broadband to unserved areas, underserved areas, or areas with minimal competition. The federal government will pay 90 cents on the dollar for construction under these grants. In exchange, applicants will be required to offer high-speed public broadband directly to every home in their application area. Applicants will have to offer at least one plan with 100 Mbps/ 100 Mbps speeds and one discount internet plan for low-income customers with a prepaid feature or a low monthly rate. Of these funds, $5 billion will be set aside specifically for 100% federal grants to tribal nations to expand broadband access on Native American lands. In addition to necessary “last mile” infrastructure, tribes will be able to apply for funds to build the missing 8,000 miles of middle mile fiber on tribal lands.
- Appoint FCC Commissioners who will restore net neutrality, regulating internet service providers as “common carriers” and maintaining open access to the Internet. And I will require all telecommunications services to contribute fairly into the Universal Service Fund to shore up essential universal service programs.
- Bolster the FCC’s Office of Native Affairs and Policy.
- Improve the accuracy of broadband maps. I will appoint FCC Commissioners who will require ISPs to report service and speeds down to the household level, as well as aggregate pricing data, and work with community stakeholders — including tribal nations — to make sure we get this process right. Then, we will make these data available to the public and conduct regular audits to ensure accurate reporting.
- Prohibit the range of sneaky maneuvers giant private providers use to unfairly squeeze out competition, hold governments hostage, and drive up prices. We will return control of utility poles and conduits to cities, prohibit landlords from making side deals with private ISPs to limit choices in their properties, and ban companies from limiting access to wires inside buildings. We will make sure that all new buildings are fiber-ready so that any network can deliver service there, and we will also enact “Dig Once” policies to require that conduit is laid anytime the ground is opened for a public infrastructure project.
- Ensure every person has the skills to fully participate in our online economy. I will work to pass the Digital Equity Act, which invests $2.5 billion over ten years to help states develop digital equity plans and launch digital inclusion projects.
My Plan to Invest in Rural America Elizabeth Warren Unveils a Plan to Expand Broadband Access (Wired) America has a terrible digital divide. Elizabeth Warren has a plan for that too. (Vox) Warren pushes for public broadband networks (The Hill)