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Biden's Plan for Broadband Isn't Bold Enough

Bhaskar Chakravorti weighs in on President Biden's $2 trillion infrastructure plan, asking whether it supports the country's growing broadband needs.

President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan is smart to look beyond ports and potholes. But I worry about the part of the plan aimed at expanding broadband. It’s both too ambitious and not ambitious enough.

Make no mistake, broadband is infrastructure. It’s unacceptable that American schoolchildren have to piggyback on the Wi-Fi provided by fast-food restaurants to submit homework, and and adults have uneven internet access as they hold down remote jobs, apply for jobs, or make Covid vaccine appointments. The problem needs fixing — and soon. 

But the Biden plan doesn’t ask for enough money to fix it. It proposes a $100 billion budget over eight years to close America’s digital divide, similar to a parallel bill in Congress. These proposals are predicated on an incorrect FCC mapping of the country’s digital infrastructure that estimates that there are “fewer than 14.5 million” people who lack broadband internet access. The estimate is so far off the mark that the current acting FCC chair, Jessica Rosenworcel, has acknowledged it and commissioned a proper mapping of broadband nationwide.

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