Biden says he intends to lower internet prices, but the details matter

Enlarge / President Joe Biden speaks at the Mack Truck Lehigh Valley Operations on July 28, 2021 in Macungie, Pennsylvania.

A bipartisan infrastructure deal will provide $ 65 billion for broadband deployment and require ISPs that receive funding “to offer an affordable price,” the White House said today.

President Joe Biden promised early in its period to lower internet prices, and this seems to be the first tangible result – although it will only affect ISPs taking the new funding and the White House did not release key information on the affordable internet plans. A white house fact sheet on infrastructure trade of $ 550 billion. with senators included two sections that summarized broadband parts:

[M]There are 30 million Americans living in areas where there is no broadband infrastructure that provides minimally acceptable speeds – a particular problem in rural areas across the country. The $ 65 billion deal ensures that every American has access to reliable high-speed Internet with a historic investment in broadband infrastructure deployment, just as the federal government made a historic effort to provide electricity to every American nearly a hundred years ago.

The bill will also help lower the prices of Internet services by requiring beneficiaries to offer a low-cost, affordable plan by creating price transparency and helping families compare stores and by increasing competition in areas where existing providers do not provide adequate service. It will also help close the digital divide by adopting the Digital Equity Act, ending digital redlining and creating a permanent program to help more low-income households access the Internet.

The definition “Low price” has not been released yet

The announcement did not say what speeds or prices should be offered by government-funded ISPs in the required low-cost plans. Nor did it say whether these cheap plans would be available to all customers or only those who meet certain income requirements.

The promise of “a permanent program to help more low-income households access the Internet” could mean $ 50 pr. Monthly grant that Congress created for the pandemic will continue in some form. Currently, the grants are expected to end when $ 3.2 billion runs out of money, or six months after the Department of Health and Human Services declares an end to the COVID-19 health condition, whichever comes first. Four million households has so far signed up for the grant program.

The 65 billion. Dollars have fallen from Biden’s original proposal from $ 100 billion over eight years.

Low upload standard will help wireless ISPs and cable providers

The city’s announcement did not specify the minimum upload and download speeds that ISPs must offer in order to qualify for public funding. As Easy reading notes, fixed-wireless home Internet service providers have been “desperate to persuade makers to take a stand on a definition of broadband that wireless technology would be able to meet.” Cable companies have been like that too push to a standard with low upload speeds because cable technology is limited on the upstream side.

Light Reading wrote that a “draft bipartisan broadband bill currently being expanded through Congress” would enable funding for ISPs offering 100Mbps downloads and 20Mbps uploads, which would make it easier for wired and cable providers to win government funding . A 100 Mbps standard for both downloads and uploads would guarantee more money for fiber, providing the fastest upload speeds and being the most future-proof broadband technology.

Completes redirection and hidden fees

That Digital Equity Act that Biden said that included in the agreement was introduced in March and would establish a subsidy program “to make distributions to states based on their population, demographics, availability and adoption of broadband.” Meanwhile, another grant program would be “in support of efforts to achieve digital equity, promote digital integration and stimulate the adoption of broadband”, according to the official bill.

It is not clear whether Biden’s agreement with Congress will do anything to end digital redirection that refers to ISPs. building networks in affluent areas while ignoring the poor.

The White House’s commitment to “create price transparency and help families compare stores” seems to refer to Biden’s previously stated goal of ending hidden fees by requiring ISPs to clearly state the full cost of service and limiting fees for early termination that makes it expensive to switch ISPs. in areas where customers actually have choices. Biden recently urged the FCC to deal with it, but it could also be mandated by Congress.

As always, the details will have a big impact on whether the legislation helps people get fast and affordable internet services. For example, many ISPs only charge customers $ 50 per night. Month pandemic supplements on certain plans and in some cases forcing users to more expensive plans to get the temporary discount. Sending money to broadband ISPs also requires careful management to ensure that the money is sent to the right places and for ISPs who are unlikely to miss out on deployment deadlines.

Biden initially promised to give priority access to funding for municipal broadband networks and other publicly owned providers, but he apparently fallen that goal in the negotiations. Republicans have tried to ban municipal broadband networks altogether and consistently seeks to send government funding to private ISPs instead.

“Slim number of Republicans” support agreement

There are apparently just enough Republicans willing to vote on the infrastructure deal to give it the 60 votes needed to interrupt the Senate debate. “A small number of Republicans are expected to vote to advance” the bill in a poll expected to take place Wednesday night, Politico reported.

The introduction to the vote may be controversial. “This idea of ​​getting a bill still being written is still a bad idea,” Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) said according to Politico. “We will insist on changes because this bill has been debated by 20 people, but there are 80 other senators.”

A vote tonight would apparently not be the end of the Senate process, NPR wrote:

Senator Joe Manchin, (DW.Va.) said he expects the first vote will be on placeholder legislation, which will later be amended to include the full text of the agreement. This process is not uncommon; it allows the Senate to move forward while staff draft the legislative language necessary for a bill to be put to the vote.

It is not clear exactly when the full text will be available to the public. “Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Who served as the leading negotiator for the Democrats, said lawmakers are putting the finishing touches on the bill, but should allow the rest of the Senate to start reading it soon,” he said. according to NBC News. Sinema also said lawmakers have “done most of the text so we’ll release it today and then we’ll update it when we get the final pieces finished.”

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