Senate infrastructure bill sets stage to make broadband more available and affordable

Coverage Type: 

The Senate infrastructure bill includes a package of digital initiatives that together amount to the largest one-time investment in broadband in US history, totaling $65 billion. But the money still may fall short of President Biden’s ambitious goal of ensuring every American has access to high-speed Internet, as Democrats initially stated $100 billion might be needed to address the country’s digital infrastructure, and consumer advocates have warned that the package particularly does not go far enough to address long-running competition concerns.An earlier bipartisan broadband bill would have overturned state laws that make it illegal to build municipal networks, which advocates say result in greater competition and lower prices for consumers. But that language was not included in the latest version of the infrastructure plan.

The omission was one of the “most disappointing” in the legislation, said Andrew Jay Schwartzman, Senior Counselor at the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society. He also lamented that the minimum Internet speed requirements for the networks were slower than what Democrats initially proposed. They wanted download and upload speeds of 100 megabits per second, but the bill only requires upload speeds of 20 Mbps, which experts have warned are not speedy enough for households increasingly reliant on video conferencing. Despite these shortcomings, advocates said they were largely pleased with the deal. “There will have to be more in the future,” said Gigi Sohn, Benton Senior Fellow and Public Advocate. “It’s not the end point, but it’s a really strong beginning.”

Senate infrastructure bill sets stage for massive effort to make broadband more available and affordable