WASHINGTON—With the U.S. Senate advancing a bipartisan infrastructure package that includes significant investments to close the digital divide, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), the leading think tank for science and technology policy, released the following statement from ITIF’s director of broadband and spectrum policy, Doug Brake:
Early proposals from the administration indicated an intent to transform broadband into an old-fashioned utility through massive, wasteful overbuilding. Significant improvements to the draft legislation have brought it much closer to something ITIF could support.
The most important improvement is the change to what areas are considered unserved. This change will prioritize funds toward areas lacking 25/3 Mbps broadband, rather than 100/100, which means a better focus on connecting the truly unserved and more flexibility to achieve greater coverage. Permanent expansion of “Affordable Connectivity” low-income subsidies is also a major plus, which hopefully Congress will fund into the future.
But there is still too much emphasis on local government planning rather than a competitive process to determine effective private sector partners, and there is still too much opportunity for overbuilding. If we are to connect truly high-cost areas, policy must ensure funds are narrowly targeted to unserved areas. ITIF looks forward to engaging with policymakers as this bill continues to be improved.
For more on this issue, please see:
- Robert D. Atkinson and Doug Brake, “Refining the Biden Broadband Proposal” (ITIF, May 2021).
- Doug Brake and Alexandra Bruer, “How to Bridge the Rural Broadband Gap Once and For All” (ITIF, March 2021).