UPDATE: March 2022 — As of March 2022, the FCC has yet to finish updating its broadband-coverage map of the United States. This is a critical step to close the digital divide.
Today, President Biden signed the bipartisan infrastructure bill into law, which includes $65 billion to close the digital divide by bringing broadband to those who lack it and addressing broadband affordability.
The law allocates approximately $42 billion for high-speed broadband deployment in unserved and underserved areas. It also provides roughly $14 billion for a $30-per-month Affordable Connectivity Program to help ensure low-income communities can afford broadband access, replacing the $50-per-month Emergency Broadband Benefit program supported temporarily through the COVID-19 relief package.
The law also requires broadband providers to adopt a broadband nutrition label, which will standardize advertising of broadband plans to allow people to better compare the different options available to them.
“Internet access is essential for people to exercise their human rights,” said Willmary Escoto, U.S. Policy Analyst at Access Now. “This infrastructure package is a huge win for people in the United States, especially those earning low incomes who struggle to get online. Although we hoped the total investment would have been closer to President Biden’s initial proposal of $100 billion, this is a critical step toward connecting everyone to high-speed internet, and we commend the Biden administration and members of Congress for moving it forward.”
“Passing this infrastructure plan into law is a significant victory,” said Eric Null, U.S. Policy Manager at Access Now. “We will be watching the implementation of the broadband programs in the law, and helping to ensure the investments go to the communities that most need it.”