Digital divide fix gets a boost as Biden signs $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill

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US President Joe Biden signs the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act as he is surrounded by lawmakers and members of his cabinet during a ceremony on the South Lawn at the White House in Washington DC on November 15, 2021. The $1.2 trillion package will provide funding for public infrastructure projects, including projects to improve the country’s transportation network, increase rural broadband access, and modernize water and energy systems.

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it’s part of the story crossing the broadband divide, Nerdshala’s coverage of how the country is working toward universalizing broadband access.


President Joe Biden signed it on Monday $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill The legislation paved the way for much-needed funding for everything from roads and bridges to port expansion and airport capacity to upgrades to the electrical grid. A small but significant portion of the infrastructure bill could also be a potential hedge against the digital divide.

The signing of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act marks a major legislative victory for Biden after months of heated negotiations between Democrats. The House of Representatives earlier this month passed the massive spending package in a vote of 228-206, which largely fell along party lines. The Senate passed the bill, which would distribute $550 billion in new federal spending, in a 69 to 30 vote in August.

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In a rare moment of bipartisanship, some Republicans and most Democrats who supported the legislation gathered in the White House to sign the bill. Not all Republicans who voted for the popular law were in attendance. This group of lawmakers has faced criticism and in some cases death threats for backing the infrastructure package. Former President Donald Trump has called on Republicans to support selling the law and has encouraged a primary fight to oust those backing the historic package in the upcoming midterm elections.

Before signing the bill, Biden noted that the spending measure was a long one as Trump had repeatedly promised but failed to deliver an infrastructure package.

“Here in Washington, we’ve heard countless speeches, promises, and white papers from experts. But today, we’re finally getting it done,” Biden said. “And my message to the American people is: America is moving forward again. And your life is about to change for the better.”

The law nearly broke with Democrats fighting amongst themselves for more than a month, as progressives used the bipartisan infrastructure bill to garner support from moderate Democrats for the larger Build Back Better Act, which envisioned social movements such as universals. The focus is expected to be on spending programmes. Money for pre-K, paid leave, and affordable childcare and housing.

On one side of the debate were progressives in the House led by Democrat Pramila Jayapal of Washington, threatening to overwhelm the law if too large. “Human Infrastructure” Bill The budget resolution in the Senate in conjunction with traditional infrastructure legislation was not passed through. On the other side were two moderate Senate Democrats, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kirsten Cinemas of Arizona, who repeatedly said that the $3.5 trillion price tag was too heavy.

Progressive Democrats eventually agreed to vote for the infrastructure bill after moderate Democrats assured them they would vote for the larger Build Back Better Act, which focused on social spending.

Meanwhile, the impasse had left the fate of a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill in limbo, which included $65 billion in federal funding for broadband investment.

Broadband experts were preparing themselves for a worst-case scenario, fearing that a deadlock that resulted in the House not voting on a bipartisan infrastructure bill could eventually lead to a once-in-a-generation opportunity to close the digital divide. would eliminate it, an issue which is a crooked policy. Manufacturer for decades.

“I think we get a shot at this,” Mark Buell, the Internet Society’s regional vice president of North America, said back in September.

Colorado Democrat Sen. Michael Bennett, who is pushing for more investment in affordable high-speed broadband, said the funding will have a significant impact on broadband across the country.

“We are on the Nerdshala of making the largest investment ever in affordable, high-speed broadband in US history,” he said in a statement. “This new funding says that we don’t have to accept a country where any American broadband is out of reach, they need to compete and grow in the 21st century.”

chance of a lifetime

NS The bipartisan infrastructure bill includes A commitment of $42 billion to deploy broadband where it does not yet exist. Where broadband is available, it promises another $14.2 billion to create a sustainable $30-a-month subsidy program to help serve low-income Americans. The bill also offers an additional $2.75 billion for digital equity and inclusion efforts, which could end digital redlining, the practice of Internet service providers avoiding low-income areas — typically neighborhoods with large populations of people of color. Where they don’t think they will make money.

For the first time in more than two decades, policymakers see a real opportunity to make a difference.

“There is an opportunity to get out of the crisis,” FCC Acting Chair Jessica Rosenworcel said in an interview with Nerdshala in September. “With this crisis, we’ve ended the days where we talk about broadband as ‘nice-to-be’.” Policy makers everywhere now understand that this is a ‘need’ for everyone in this country.”

In 2010, the Obama administration’s National Broadband Plan presented a guide to developing policy to address the problem. But the well-published report did not lead to concrete action after Congress allocated stimulus money in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, said Blair Levine, now a Wall Street analyst but first with the Federal Communications Commission during the Clinton administration. was an officer. Lead author of National Broadband Plan.

“Ten years ago when we wrote the National Broadband Plan, we had expressed many of the same things that people are now referring to,” he said. “But it was not a priority. There was not much political capital. There was no money left to deal with these issues.”

In 2017, the FCC Estimated that it would cost $40 billion to deploy fiber networks to 98% of homes. NS agency in 2021. said in Some progress has been made in ensuring that more Americans are connected to broadband. From 2018 to 2019, the FCC said the number of Americans lacking a broadband connection of at least 25 megabits per second fell more than 20% to 14.5 million Americans.

Those left behind without access to reliable, affordable broadband are disproportionately people from communities of color, rural areas, and low-income households. pew research center data shows that 80% of white adults in the US report that they have a broadband connection, while 71% of black respondents say they have access to broadband and only 65% ​​of Hispanics report having broadband.

In large rural areas, high-speed Internet access is non-existent. In many other communities, service is often unreliable, cheap or very slow.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear that Americans need broadband for everything from going to school to going to work, to accessing health care. Congress committed billions in federal COVID relief dollars to provide subsidies to keep millions of Americans online.

Levine said that the driving force behind more investment to close the digital divide around the world due to COVID.

“Covid-19 was a better evangelist on why we needed to solve this problem than I could ever be,” he said. “COVID taught a lot of government officials why you need broadband in every school child’s homes and why rural areas need it for health care. Now there’s true bipartisan support.”

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