The White House led off an infrastructure promotion fact sheet distributed to the media Thursday (July 8) with the impact of a bipartisan framework on high-speed internet, particularly in rural and tribal areas, and President Joe Biden’s pledge to get broadband into every home.
The Biden administration also doubled down on its definition of availability as including speed and price.
“More than 35% of rural Americans and Tribal communities lack wired access to broadband at acceptable speeds,” the White House said as it tried to drum up support for a new version of Biden’s massive infrastructure spending bill.
It did not say what it considered acceptable.
The sheet pointed out that the compromise plan would invest $65 billion on broadband deployment, which would include money to the Agriculture Department’s rural broadband programs. That $65 billion was the Republican counteroffer to Biden's proposed $100 billion-plus in broadband funding.
The GOP’s $65 billion comes from the $81 billion in revenue from the FCC's C-band auction — minus the $16 billion it will cost for the repacking and reallocation of that spectrum.
The fact sheet said the broadband infrastructure investment goal was “to make high-speed internet available to all Americans, bring down high-speed internet prices across the board, and provide technical assistance to communities seeking to expand broadband.”
That would include money for municipal buildouts of broadband, potentially in competition to existing service that didn't meet the White House definition of sufficiently high speed at sufficiently now prices.
The White House also echoed former FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, who long argued that the country needed a rural broadband program similar to rural electrification during the Roosevelt Administration.
“With the 1936 Rural Electrification Act, the Federal government made a historic investment in bringing electricity to nearly every home and farm in America, and millions of families and our economy reaped the benefits,” the White House said. “Broadband internet is the new electricity. It is necessary for Americans to do their jobs, to accelerate precision agriculture, to participate equally in school learning and health care, and to stay connected.”
According to a Data for Progress survey of 1,137 likely voters conducted June 30-July 1--and also being promoted by the White House--78% "support expanding internet access to rural communities." That includes 44% who strongly support it and 34% who said they "somewhat" support it.
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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.