August 10, 2021
Washington has been talking about a massive, coordinated federal investment in broadband infrastructure for as long as I can remember, and here we are.
It should be said: this $65 billion infusion for broadband that cleared the Senate is a generational (and hopefully transformational) investment in network deployment, affordability, cybersecurity and digital equity. It’s far from perfect, but it represents progress on our shared universal connectivity goals.
The bill will drive next generation, high-speed networks deeper into all corners of the country and make targeted investments based on new (and much-needed) broadband maps that prioritize communities without service first.
The legislation also makes good on expanding affordability. Providers of all sizes are investing in affordability solutions and the data shows broadband prices have been declining over time, even as most other goods and services have gotten more expensive. Still, a government-funded broadband affordability program will help many Americans in need through the next several years and make a real difference.
We’ve been talking about this for years, but in the end the bill came together quickly, without a lot of debate, vetting or committee hearings, so the details on implementation and the inevitable unintended consequences are going to matter, maybe more than usual.
It’s a bigger concern that some in Washington continue to be chronically allergic to the notion that America’s broadband providers – today, right now – deliver world-class connectivity, affordable and valuable service plans, reliability and network capacity that have been a technological and economic boon and solidified our global digital leadership.
Don’t take my word for it, just look at our collective experience over the last 16 months and what it would have been like without the connectivity infrastructure that delivered for the country. Private broadband investment – to the tune of $80 billion a year – provided a big return, and it would be unfortunate if those investments are undermined by red tape, regulations, unnecessary mandates, and backward looking and ultimately anti-consumer mindsets by some in Washington, state capitals and beyond.
The broadband community is a diverse one – local Main Street companies to heartland cooperatives to global technology leaders — all committed to bringing the power and promise of broadband connectivity to every home, small business, student, healthcare provider and innovator in the country. No matter where, no matter what.
So the Senate deserves credit for working together across the aisle to complete its job, and opening up a path so broadband innovators can finish our job. Now it’s on to the House.
Jonathan Spalter is President and CEO of USTelecom – The Broadband Association.