The Allocation of High-Speed Broadband Funding
On Monday, the White House allocated $42 billion across all 50 states and US territories. The funding, part of a wider effort to make high-speed broadband universally accessible by 2030, also serves to promote President Joe Biden's economic policies.
Source of Funds and Allocation Strategy
The Broadband Equity Access and Deployment Program, authorized by the 2021 Infrastructure law championed by Biden, will fund this mission. Distribution of the funds will be guided by a recently released Federal Communications Commission coverage map, highlighting gaps in high-speed internet access across the country.
State-Specific Fund Allocation
Texas and California, being the most populous US states, have been allotted $3.1 billion and $1.9 billion respectively. Interestingly, less populous states like Virginia, Alabama, and Louisiana have also cracked the top 10 funding list due to their significant broadband access issues, especially in rural areas.
Biden on the Significance of High-Speed Internet
Speaking at a White House address, Biden stressed that access to the internet is as crucial as other basic services such as electricity and water. He described the plan as "the biggest investment in high-speed internet ever."
Detailed Breakdown of the Funding
The grants vary, with US territories like the Virgin Islands receiving $27 million, and Texas receiving the highest, at over $3.3 billion. Each state is guaranteed a minimum of $107 million in funding to boost their broadband access.
The Political Significance
The announcement marks the start of the second leg of Biden's tour, underlining how his Democratic Party's legislation will impact everyday Americans. This comes as Biden's 2024 re-election bid starts to gain momentum.
Setting the Stage for "Bidenomics"
As part of his economic agenda, Biden is slated to deliver a key economic speech in Chicago on Wednesday. The focus will be on his economic strategy, informally dubbed "Bidenomics."
Public Opinion and the 2024 Election
The 2024 election is likely to serve as a referendum on Biden's handling of the economy, with a mix of job creation and low unemployment on one side and inflation fears on the other. A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll showed a 54% disapproval rate for Biden's economic performance.
Current State of Broadband Access in the US
According to administration estimates, approximately 8.5 million locations across the US lack broadband connectivity. This digital divide has been magnified during the COVID-19 pandemic when schooling had to shift online.
The Challenges of Rural Broadband Access
Major broadband companies have been reluctant to expand services to low-population, rural areas. Such areas lack a significant subscriber base and involve substantial investment, presenting a challenge for companies such as Verizon, Comcast, Charter Communications, and AT&T.
The Roadmap for Fund Release
States are due to submit their initial plans later this year, unlocking 20% of the funding. The government will release the remaining money once the plans are finalized, which could extend into 2025.