President Joe Biden signed the much-anticipated $ 1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill on Monday, which includes a massive investment in the nation’s broadband infrastructure that aims to bridge the digital divide.
The United States has long battled the digital divide, the divide between who has access to affordable high-speed internet and those who don’t, and the infrastructure bill will spend $ 65 billion on initiatives. broadband that will seek to bridge the gap.
While Biden initially sought to invest $ 100 billion in broadband, the $ 65 billion bill signed touch on many aspects the digital divide, including the effective deployment of broadband in underserved and unserved areas of the country.
But it will also seek to resolve Internet accessibility issues by indefinitely extending a program that allows people to earn monthly rebates on their Internet bills.
Biden noted the investment in broadband in a tweet Monday night, saying broadband was “as essential as access to water or electricity.”
“Access to high-speed internet is as essential as access to water or electricity,” Biden tweeted. âThe bipartisan infrastructure law will make broadband internet affordable and available across America – urban, suburban and rural – and create jobs by establishing broadband lines. “
The broadband aspects of the bill have also drawn praise from advocacy groups.
âWith today’s signing, President Biden takes a first step towards fulfilling his administration’s promises to make broadband more open and affordable. Significant support will now be available for the tens of millions of people in the United States who have not been able to afford high speed internet access, âsaid Matt Wood, vice president of policy and general counsel for Free Press Action, in a press release. âThe new law also provides funding for broadband deployment, digital inclusion and other investments in internet access and equity, which will help bridge digital divides and bring connections closer to home. countless others. ”
Broadband in the Infrastructure Bill
Specifically, the infrastructure bill allocates more than $ 42 billion in grants that will be used by states to develop broadband in unserved areas of the country.
Meanwhile, $ 14.2 billion will be used to continue and rename an existing Federal Communications Commission (FCC) program that helps eligible people earn monthly rebates on their Internet bills.
The Infrastructure Bill will rename the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) to the Affordable Connectivity Program. The EBB has seen more than 6 million Americans register since it launched earlier this year under a coronavirus bill.
The EBB, which is available to Americans who meet certain criteria such as being enrolled in SNAP, Medicaid, Lifeline, or having a child in a discounted school meal program.
It originally had $ 3.2 billion allocated as part of a coronavirus relief bill and was scheduled to end once the government ends the COVID-19 emergency or the money ran out. The infrastructure bill signed on Monday would extend the program indefinitely.
However, the infrastructure bill will reduce the monthly discount available to registrants from $ 50 to $ 30 per month.
The bill also targets “digital discrimination” in the country and directs the FCC to create rules within two years that “facilitate equal access to broadband Internet access service” and aim to âPrevent digital discrimination of access based on income level, race, ethnicity. , color, religion or national origin.
âBroadband connects us to jobs, education, healthcare and each other. But tens of millions of Americans without reliable, high-quality Internet access cannot share these benefits equally, âFCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks said in a statement. âThe plan President Biden enacted today makes historic investments to right this long-standing wrong: expanding broadband infrastructure, making broadband affordable, and empowering Americans with digital skills and inclusion. We now have a unique opportunity to bring broadband to all Americans. Let’s get to work. “
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* First published: November 16, 2021, 10:17 a.m. CST
Andrew Wyrich is Associate Technical Writer at The Daily Dot. Andrew has written for USA Today, NorthJersey.com and other newspapers and websites. His work has been recognized by the Society of the Silurians, Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE) and the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ).