Biden Budget Has Even More Bucks for Broadband

President Joe Biden during a press conference on January 19, 2022.
President Joe Biden at a January press conference. (Image credit: C-SPAN)

President Joe Biden’s 2023 budget, released Monday (March 28), includes more than a half-billion additional dollars in direct broadband aid, as well as billions in discretionary spending billed as, in part, a complement to the $65 billion already allocated for closing the digital divide in the White House-backed Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

The additional, direct funding is in the form of a proposed $600 million in additional spending on the ReConnect program, supplementing an original $1.15 billion in federal loans and grants through the U.S. Department of Agriculture to expand high-speed internet access — or, in this case, build it in the first place — in rural and particularly in tribal communities as part of the president's Build Back Better agenda.

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To be eligible for ReConnect Program funding, applicants must serve an area without broadband service at speeds of 100 megabits per second downstream and 20 Mbps upstream, and commit to building facilities capable of providing broadband service at speeds of 100 Mbps (downstream and upstream) to every location in its proposed service area.

There is also $25 million in direct funding for rural telecom cooperatives to refinance their Rural Utilities Service debt and upgrade broadband facilities. RUS is one of the USDA’s broadband grant/loan programs.

But in addition to that, the budget provides for $28.5 billion for USDA, which the budget says is meant to “complement” broadband deployment funding in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, as well as conservation and forest management.

Likewise, the Commerce Department, which is handing out the bulk of the $65 billion broadband infrastructure spending, will get $11.7 billion in discretionary funding to “complement major investments in broadband Internet access and climate resilience.”

"I applaud President Biden’s call for additional investments to support domestic manufacturing, secure our supply chains, and bridge the digital divide," said Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), chairman of the powerful House Energy & Commerce Committee, which has primary jurisdiction over broadband issues.  ■

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.