Earlier this week, Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives introduced the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act, a sweeping bill that would take major steps toward closing the digital divide.
We reported on the legislation yesterday, but today we want to take a closer look at the bill text [pdf]. Below, we examine some details of how the act would fund broadband deployment and affordable connections for Americans across the country.
Grand Plans to Build Broadband, Connect the Unconnected
Among the investments proposed in the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act, the largest is $80 billion to fund the construction of broadband networks in unserved and underserved areas. That amount dwarfs the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) upcoming $20.4 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF).
Like RDOF, the legislation calls for a competitive bidding process to distribute the funds. In 2018, the FCC used a bidding process in the Connect America Fund phase II reverse auction. Compared to earlier subsidies granted under that program, which largely went to large monopolies to deploy slow, outdated DSL networks, many more winning auction bidders were rural cooperatives or other local networks that planned to deploy gigabit fiber. The proposed funding program would prioritize deployment projects that connect tribal communities and persistent-poverty areas, offer higher speeds, and/or build open access networks (a model successfully employed by Ammon, Idaho; Utah’s UTOPIA; and a number of...Read more