U.S. President Joe Biden backed a new $1.2 trillion infrastructure package which would shave $35 billion off the funding total originally proposed for broadband improvements, insisting the lower amount was still enough to connect every citizen to high-speed internet.
In a fact sheet released Thursday, the White House noted the bipartisan plan negotiated by Senate leaders includes $65 billion for “broadband infrastructure.” The figure represents a steep drop from the $100 billion Biden pitched in March.
“We have a deal,” Biden told the press in a video posted by C-SPAN. “None of us got all that we wanted, I clearly didn’t get all I wanted.” However, he added in separate remarks the legislation would “create millions of American jobs and modernize our American infrastructure to compete with the rest of the world.”
Little detail was available about how the broadband funds would be spent, with the White House fact sheet stating only the money would be used to “connect every American to reliable high-speed internet” and “drive down prices for internet service and close the digital divide.” Biden’s previous proposal made similar promises for universal broadband, price transparency and cost reduction.
Analysts at New Street Research speculated some $40 billion could be devoted to grants for states to fund deployment of broadband networks, with another $14 billion potentially allocated to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect program targeting rural areas. They added an additional $5 billion could, in part, go toward refreshing the Federal Communications Commission’s Lifeline broadband subsidy program.
They concluded the package as proposed is “highly unlikely to result in overbuilding or price regulation in ways that caused investors in ISPs to be concerned.”
In the absence of a concrete spending plan, the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA) in a statement pressed for the allocation of “more spectrum to small innovators” and backing for technologically neutral support programs which “invite the widest palette of solutions and leverage able providers already in the marketplace.”
Biden called on lawmakers to pass the deal but it is unclear whether the proposal will make it through a divided Congress. Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi stated “we will not take up a bill in the House until the Senate passes the bipartisan bill and a reconciliation bill” but added “I’m hopeful that we would have a bipartisan bill.”