The surprise wasn’t what President Biden said about broadband in the East Room of the White House – it was that he said it in the East Room of the White House.
As far as federal programs go, $42.5 billion isn’t nothing. But it isn’t a lot of money, either. I think the takeaway of yesterday’s announcement is that Biden (and Vice President Kamala Harris) want to be associated with improving Americans’ broadband.
Parallels with rural electrification of three generations ago
I was struck by the repeated mentions of the connection between the bipartisan infrastructure law and the 1936 Rural Electrification Act passed during the administration of Franklin Roosevelt.
The 1936 law intended to bring electricity to nearly every home and farm in America, the administration noted.
“High-speed internet is the new electricity,” the White House noted in the first page of its briefing guide.
“Today, roughly 8.5 million locations across America aren’t connected to the internet. The Biden-Harris Administration is going to close that gap. As a result of once-in-a-generation funding in the President’s Investing in America agenda… to bring affordable, reliable, high-speed internet to everyone in America.”
States learn that they win some and lose some
States are still digesting their numbers released yesterday.
Some states, like Virginia, were pleased with their numbers – $1.48 billion. Other states, like Kansas, were disappointed – $451 million. The next step will be to compare the numbers released yesterday with the various industry and analyst projections that have been made.
Critically important will be understanding why each state received their particular award – and the tools that state broadband offices need to manage the state challenge processes.
Linkages to other aspects of the Biden administration’s Investing in America agenda
Another thing I heard while I listened to Biden’s statements yesterday was how the president is doubling down on “Buy America” rules.
In its briefing prior to the announcement, the administration highlighted how “President Biden’s Investing in America agenda is driving a manufacturing boom – in part because of provisions in the historic legislation passed by President Biden that requires made-in-America materials.”
For example, they highlighted a recent announcement in North Carolina by fiber optic cable manufacturers Corning and CommScope announced $500 million and $47 million expansions of facilities earlier in the year.
There are some thorny issues to address here, too. But as the broadband industry welcomes the implementation of the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program, in needs to be conscious of sorting through these challenges, too.