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The US government is moving on infrastructure — broadband

Infrastructure is the other big discussion area.   With the American Rescue Plan signed into law, it includes $7 Billion for schools to use to connect students who lack internet access at home.     That’s designed to help connect some of the roughly 12 million students who lack connectivity for distance learning.  

Next up is the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act.    That bill includes $94 billion in broadband spending.     $80 billion is for deploying broadband nationwide, and prioritizes rural, suburban, AND urban areas.     Quoting Engadget:  “Providers whose networks were built from that money will then be required to offer affordable plans to consumers. The bill will also authorize the spending of $5 billion over five years on a new program that would provide low-interest financing for broadband infrastructure build out projects. The Emergency Broadband Benefit, which provides a $50 monthly discount on internet plans for low-income Americans and $75 for customers on tribal lands, will get an additional $6 billion in funding. $2 billion will go to the Emergency Connectivity Fund for students that need internet connection, and a portion of the money will also go towards funding for WiFi on school buses. 

I also wanted to highlight a comment from Jonathan Winer, the CEO of Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners, in Protocol.  This was in reference to the new infrastructure legislation being worked on.     Quoting Protocol:

He said the most important step is “literally connecting the people.” “Like, ‘Hey, this is an EV charging network that’s working really well.’ ‘This is a broadband network that’s working really well.’ ‘Mayor X, you should be talking to Mayor Y, because Mayor Y just went through this.’ I know that might sound a little bit simplistic, but it doesn’t happen currently,” he said.

Chattanooga, Tenn., is a good example: It turned community Wi-Fi into a municipal utility, which gave it new tools for regulation and funding. Other cities are currently trying all manner of other solutions, and they don’t even know what Chattanooga has already figured out.

Echoing statements made here before, Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the web, wrote in a blog post late last week that governments must work to ensure global broadband access by 2030.   Why?  To bridge the digital divide. 

Why do we care?

That funding to link students without internet at home?  That’s not just wiring – I’d assume there’s services work in there at the local level.     

But what interests me more is the discussion about local utilities AND information sharing.

I hate the cliché but its true – there’s tons of opportunity here.   On the passive side: If broadband is a local utility, this just opens up markets.   Think electricity, or water, or roads.   You can get to those customers.   More actively, there’s work to be done with local governments, which by definition includes services.    It also needs the local technology expertise.

Finally, there’s the idea sharing angle to include.    We want to foster exactly that information sharing to find success and replicate it. 

I included Berners-Lee to highlight the cultural shift.  This idea of broadband as a utility is moving.

Source: Engadget

Source: Protocol

Source: The Verge