President Biden’s ‘Internet for All’ Initiative, Explained

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President Joe Biden announced that his administration would spend more than $42 billion to expand high-speed internet access across the US. The White House estimates the program will help over 8.5 million households and small businesses. It’s the latest effort from the federal government to boost broadband access, and the Biden administration says it can connect every family and small business in all 50 states, US territories, and Washington (DC) to the internet by 2030. The initiative’s funding comes from the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program, established by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) that President Biden signed in November 2021. BEAD is a major part of the Biden administration’s “Internet for All” initiative.  Since the COVID-19 pandemic, broadband access has only grown in importance, the Biden administration believes. “Even if it isn’t your number one issue, it should be your number two issue,” says Kevin Taglang, executive editor at the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society. Moreover, broadband infrastructure is critical to extending health services to many rural areas, where hospital closures are prevalent, Taglang observes. But others note expanded internet access may not necessarily connect everyone to the internet. “Internet access is not really the major hindrance for people trying to get connected,” Will Rinehart, a senior research fellow at the Center for Growth and Opportunity, says. “The biggest impediment to getting everyone connected right now is that there’s a pretty significant trend of people who just don’t think it’s relevant," Rinehart said. Roslyn Layton, a broadband researcher who previously worked with the Federal Communications Commission as part of Donald Trump’s presidential transition team thinks one of the biggest problems with past initiatives was the failure to give end users choice in selecting services. “The best thing we’ve learned is giving vouchers directly to end users,” says Layton, likening it to school-choice vouchers. The valuable component of the smaller Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) that Congress also funded in 2021 is “the end user gets a voucher and the end user can decide which provider, which technology they want to use.”

Biden’s ‘Internet for All’ Initiative, Explained