The US government has pledged to spend $100 billion to ensure that every American has access to “high speed” broadband (opens in new tab) in a bid to close a widening digital divide.
It is thought that a third of people in the country lack access to a quality standard of broadband, meaning a significant part of the population is excluded from the economic and social benefits of connectivity.
One of the challenges is that many cities are served by a single cable provider, meaning an absence of competition that would drive down prices and improve service levels. Meanwhile, other households are not covered by the necessary infrastructure.
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Broadband in America
This shortfall has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and the shift to remote working and digital education. Plans to expand broadband coverage have been likened to the spread of electricity across the country in the early 20th century.
“The last year made painfully clear the cost of these disparities, particularly for students who struggled to connect while learning remotely, compounding learning loss and social isolation for those students,” a government document is quoted as saying.
The plans form part of President Joe Biden’s wider $2 trillion infrastructure bill that will also see investment in areas such as transportation, utilities, community care for the elderly, and research and development. This programme will be funded by increases to corporation tax.
Funding has been allocated for building infrastructure across tribal lands, while the government has also indicated it wants to worth with companies that are owned or affiliated with local governments or with non-profits and cooperatives.
This would indicate that the administration has no interest in working with major telcos or technology companies. This would appear to exclude incumbents that might use the funding to cement their positions or with companies like Google, which has launched a fibre service in a number of US cities.
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