$100 Billion to Upgrade Internet Infrastructure Empowers Government to Own Internet Service Providers
That’s how Michael Powell, the past chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and current CEO of NCTA - The Internet & Television Association, described to Axios President Biden’s plan to give up to $100 billion to local governments, non-profits, and co-ops to expand broadband internet.
A White House fact sheet about Biden’s $2 trillion American Jobs Plan gives few details about how the $100 billion for expanding broadband to 100% of the country will be broken down, but a key component will be tasking local government entities with bringing the internet to underserved areas.
“I thought that it was really out of character the degree to which they embraced this sort of unfounded faith in government-owned networks to own, build and run this program,” said Powell.
Included in the proposal is the risk, and possible waste, that is assigned to taxpayers who would fund it. Investment in government-owned broadband could leave taxpayers with the bill if the networks fail, critics of the proposal say.
Even now, the FCC is preparing a new subsidy program, the Emergency Broadband Benefit, that would give low-income consumers $50 off their monthly internet bill during the pandemic.
However, Biden says subsidies are not a long-term solution, and cheaper service is the answer.
His hope is that by putting local government entities in charge of broadband, they’ll charge less than private companies.
But is risking up to $100 billion in taxpayer money better than incentivizing for-profit companies to lower rates on their existing networks?
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