Show an ad over header. AMP

I am the FIRST

Big Telecom comes out on top in $65B broadband upgrade

The White House-backed infrastructure bill now moving toward Senate approval divvies up $65 billion in broadband funding in ways that largely please the big cable and telecom companies.

The big picture: President Biden's spending blueprints and talking points stoked alarm in the industry over the prospect of price regulation or government-backed networks, but the legislation that's moving forward is much more to its liking.


Driving the news: The bipartisan infrastructure bill would devote funding to both broadband deployment and adoption.

The deployment side includes:

  • $42.45 billion in grants to states to be used for broadband projects with speeds of at least 100/20 mbps, to be first spent in locations without high-speed internet.
  • $2 billion each to support a rural broadband construction program called ReConnect run by USDA and to the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program from NTIA.
  • $1 billion in grants to build so-called "middle mile" infrastructure to connect local providers to the larger internet access point.

On the adoption side:

  • $14.2 billion to provide a $30-a-month voucher to low-income Americans to pay for internet service, replacing the current $50-a-month Emergency Broadband Benefit program but increasing the number of Americans who will be eligible and giving consumers more choice on how to spend the benefit.
  • Requiring that providers who receive money from the state grants offer a low-cost plan, although the bill does not specify a price.
  • $2.75 billion for digital inclusion grants, such as projects to improve digital literacy or online skills for seniors.

Why telecom likes it: The bill doesn't include measures that President Biden championed as part of his early infrastructure proposal, the American Jobs Plan.

  • The bill will prioritize funding broadband in areas that lack high-speed service, so existing providers will largely avoid the threat of a government-backed competitor, and the money will be available to a larger pool of providers than just those who offer fiber service.
  • While municipal broadband projects could still receive funding, those networks will not be prioritized when the money is allocated, as Biden's plan originally proposed, and the bill will not eliminate state laws that restrict municipal broadband projects.

What they're saying: "We are encouraged that the bipartisan infrastructure deal directly addresses two critical elements of reaching universal connectivity — dedicating funding first and foremost to those regions without any broadband service, and providing financial assistance to help low-income Americans subscribe to this critical service," cable trade group NCTA spokesman Brian Dietz said in a statement.

  • Consumer groups also praised the $14 billion affordability program, as well as measures directing the Federal Communications Commission to require broadband providers to disclose service information as part of a "broadband nutrition label" and collect more pricing data.
  • “It’s really a good first start, but we have to do more," Jonathan Schwantes, senior policy counsel for Consumer Reports, told Axios. "There’s much more room here to keep advancing broadband accessibility and affordability. Candidly, we have to do more on competition.”

The other side: A White House official highlighted the new subsidy program, measures on price transparency and a proposal requiring the FCC to develop rules against digital "redlining" — discrimination based on factors like income level or race.

  • "I think we're going to be able to look back on this and say that we helped drive down prices for folks, helped increase the quality of internet service that millions of people could get, and that we ended up connecting millions of new people to the internet, because we made it affordable for them," the official told Axios. "So I think it's a win."

Why the startup world needs to ditch "unicorns" for "dragons"

When Aileen Lee originally coined the term "unicorn" in late 2013, she was describing the 39 "U.S.-based software companies started since 2003 and valued at over $1 billion by public or private market investors."

Flashback: It got redefined in early 2015 by yours truly and Erin Griffith, in a cover story for Fortune, as any privately-held startup valued at $1 billion or more. At the time, we counted 80 of them.

Keep reading... Show less

Scoop: Facebook's new moves to lower News Feed's political volume

Facebook plans to announce that it will de-emphasize political posts and current events content in the News Feed based on negative user feedback, Axios has learned. It also plans to expand tests to limit the amount of political content that people see in their News Feeds to more countries outside of the U.S.

Why it matters: The changes could reduce traffic to some news publishers, particularly companies that post a lot of political content.

Keep reading... Show less

Scoop: Amazon quietly getting into live audio business

Amazon is investing heavily in a new live audio feature that's similar to other live audio offerings like Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces and Spotify's new live audio platform, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: As with Amazon's efforts in podcasting and music subscriptions, the company sees live audio as a way to bolster the types of content it can offer through its voice assistant, Alexa, and its smart speaker products.

Keep reading... Show less

Hurricane Ida exposes America's precarious energy infrastructure

The powerful hurricane that plunged New Orleans into darkness for what could be weeks is the latest sign that U.S. power systems are not ready for a warmer, more volatile world.

The big picture: “Our current infrastructure is not adequate when it comes to these kinds of weather extremes,” Joshua Rhodes, a University of Texas energy expert, tells Axios.

Keep reading... Show less

"We must go further": 70% of adults in European Union are fully vaccinated

About 70% of adults in the European Union are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said Tuesday.

Why it matters: The milestone makes the E.U. one of the world's leaders in inoculations, after an initially lagging vaccine campaign, the New York Times notes.

Keep reading... Show less

What Elizabeth Holmes jurors will be asked ahead of fraud trial

Jury selection begins today in USA v. Elizabeth Holmes, with the actual jury trial to get underway on Sept. 8.

Why it matters: Theranos was the biggest fraud in Silicon Valley history, putting both hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of patients' health at risk.

Keep reading... Show less

Insights

mail-copy

Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories