Biden’s Broadband Plan Leaving Unanswered Questions About Funding’s Use, Critics Say

Some fear that there is no real plan to close the digital divide with Biden’s new infrastructure proposal.

Biden’s Broadband Plan Leaving Unanswered Questions About Funding’s Use, Critics Say
Screenshot of Jade Piros de Carvalho, director of the Kansas Office of Broadband Development, taken from BBLO event.

June 3, 2021一 Panelists at a Brookings Institution event said they are concerned about the lack of details in President Joe Biden’s $2.3-trillion American Jobs Plan, including how the $100 billion for broadband will be spent.

The plan, announced in March, is now being negotiated with the Republicans to bring the amount pledged to broadband down to $65 billion.

On Wednesday, the Brookings Institution heard from experts who said they are concerned not only about how that money will be spent, but also where future funding will come from for two broadband subsidy programs — the recently launched Emergency Broadband Benefit program and the Universal Service Fund.

The experts said the federal government must form relationships with the private sector at the state and local levels in order to achieve the most optimum use of the funding.

“What is the next step?” asked Nicol Turner Lee at the Brookings Institution. “I’m thinking, are we still trying to regurgitate some of the old policies that we know for a fact put us into a dogma where we couldn’t get things done?”

“The train has left the station,” she added. “It is no longer binary who is online and who is not online.”

The panelists also suggested that there be a record of how schools and districts adapted to the challenges of the pandemic to glean some of those experiences going forward.

But they also suggested that a critical component of this puzzle is accurate broadband mapping, which the Federal Communications Commission said it is working on providing.

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