As President Biden continues to negotiate with Republican legislators on infrastructure investment, both sides reportedly have proposed to allot $65 billion for broadband. That’s the amount the Republicans initially proposed in April in response to a proposal from Biden to invest $100 billion in broadband.
Biden’s initial infrastructure investment proposal, known as the American Jobs Plan, called for a total investment of $2.25 trillion in broadband and other infrastructure and the Republicans’ initial counter proposal called for an infrastructure investment of $565 billion.
A revised White House proposal issued May 21 reduced the proposed investment to $1.7 trillion, including just $65 billion for broadband. News reports quoted a White House statement that said $65 billion would be sufficient to make broadband available nationwide but that it would take longer to reach that goal.
Late last week, the Republicans raised their infrastructure investment proposal to $928 billion, with the amount proposed for broadband unchanged at $65 billion.
There’s more to infrastructure investment plans than simply the dollar amounts, however, and although details about the broadband aspects of the Biden American Jobs Plan proposal are sketchy, they are detailed enough to generate controversy.
Republicans reportedly are unhappy with Biden’s proposal to prioritize funding for municipally owned networks, for example – something several broadband industry associations also oppose.
Biden also called for investment in future-proof networks, a phrase that suggests the American Jobs Plan may call for investment in fiber-to-the-home networks – another controversial area.
Some industry associations argue that deploying fiber eliminates the need to repeatedly upgrade networks to gain incremental speed boosts. Others argue that technologies such as fixed wireless are less costly and can meet bandwidth demands for years into the future – and some Republicans reportedly hold the latter view.
Although Democrats have the potential to pass infrastructure investment legislation without Republican support, policy pundits say a bipartisan infrastructure package would be more successful.
The real controversy will begin when and if the details of the $65 billion package gets revealed. How much will address affordability versus access will be a key area for debate.
Affordability has been a key issue of late with over $10 billion having already been allocated between the Emergency Broadband Benefit program and the Emergency Connectivity Fund. The Biden administration has already signaled affordability of broadband as potential point of focus for its infrastructure plan, initially suggesting that subsidy payments for broadband aren’t sustainable over the long term.
Bernie Arnason contributed to this post.