NTCA leaders provide update on how measure may affect broadband providers
When President Joe Biden debuted his $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan in late March, it included information on building out broadband infrastructure across the U.S.
While it provided a positive outlook on several broadband-related topics, the plan lacked specific information. Biden left the finer points to a bipartisan committee to flesh out.
The initial document called for future-proof networks and making sure providers are building for the fastest possible speeds the first time. As the bipartisan committee changes line items during negotiations, the definition of broadband could be changing, too.
Though it’ll likely be this fall before Congress officially acts on anything, legislators are hoping to have a bill up for discussion before the August recess.
“Right now, instead of aiming to have fiber built everywhere, we’re hearing the Senate plan could water down broadband speeds under the theory that lower speeds can be built less expensively and reach more people,” says Mike Romano, senior vice president of Industry Affairs and Business Development for NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association. “That presents some real concerns, and we’re actively advocating against it for our members.”
In Biden’s initial proposal, about $100 billion was allocated toward broadband infrastructure. In its current state, Romano expects about $65 billion set aside for broadband, with $40 billion going toward infrastructure and $15 billion focused on adoption, especially for low-income consumers.
“We’re trying to leave no stone unturned,” Romano says. “We’re also hoping the White House will jump back in and look back to its original vision of more fiber. There are senators who don’t want to leave any providers out. They want to be technologically neutral, but we’re making the case that if we don’t pursue fiber, we could be redoing this again in three to five years.”
What You Can Do
“It’ll be interesting to see how the work transpires,” says Levoy Knowles, TNBA executive director. “Between Tennessee’s commitment to broadband on the state level and the federal proposal, I’m confident a lot will be accomplished over the next few years to bring more broadband to Tennesseans.”
Regardless of the final outcome, broadband being front and center on both the federal and state level is good for the industry.
“If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that broadband is vital 21st-century infrastructure,” says Shirley Bloomfield, NTCA CEO. “We’re urging policymakers to aim high and invest in future-proof fiber technology built to last. By ensuring funding is directed towards connecting those most in need first and coordinating funding among the existing federal and state programs that support and sustain broadband deployment, we’ll help keep services in hard-to-reach rural areas affordable. I encourage TNBA members to use our Fiber Delivers resources to share their support for fiber technology.”