Over the past several years, broadband has taken a backseat to other essential services that you might have in your home. During the COVID pandemic, many people saw that broadband is an essential service for working, taking classes, and communicating with family, friends, and healthcare providers. President Biden has recently hinted at the government taking a bigger role in broadband internet so that more households can have the service without paying an enormous amount of money. At least $65 billion has been set aside to begin the expansion of broadband across the United States so that homes that aren’t connected can get on board. The hope is that with more people connected to the internet, as stated by internetnearme.com, there will be an even playing field for students in school and more opportunities for people to safely work from home if they need to so that they can keep their jobs and support their families. This money is part of the $1 trillion infrastructure plan passed in August 2023.
Once the money reaches broadband companies, they will begin installing the lines and other equipment needed to get communities connected to the internet. The goal is to begin with communities that aren’t connected so that they will have access to basic services. Then, companies can begin upgrading broadband so that it’s faster in communities that are already connected but that might see slow speeds, learn more here. Bills would then be subsidized by internet providers so that low-income households can afford the services that are installed. Companies would also be asked to publish details about services that are offered and products that are available so that the government can ensure that the funds that are approved are being used in the directed manner. This effort is a step forward in making broadband an essential service so that more people can get help with monthly bills in order to keep their internet connection from being turned off.
Stating the Obvious
For many people who have broadband, they know that it’s an essential service that they can’t afford to lose. They might need it for connecting to doctors when they aren’t able to go to the office or for working when they aren’t able to leave home. Students might need internet access if they choose to go to college and want to work. Students who aren’t able to go to school because of illnesses or because of a natural disaster could still access their classes so that they don’t get behind if they have broadband. Over 80% of consumers have a strong opinion that broadband should be a service that’s considered essential, similar to electricity or water.
If one positive thing has come from the COVID pandemic, it’s that more people have realized just how important broadband is for everyone instead of only for those who can afford the service. It’s one that has been treated as a luxury for many years but is now being seen as a service that some can’t do without because it impacts their livelihood. Aside from just having internet services, it’s important for homes to have high-speed internet so that they can quickly access the websites that they need to view and perform the tasks that they need to accomplish. Another detail that will likely be addressed by the infrastructure bill is how much internet service is and how to decrease the costs associated with the essential service.
There has been a division in the country with one side of households being able to afford broadband and one side not being able to afford the service. There are also divisions associated with connections in general as some areas in the country don’t have the proper way to connect to cable or fiber-optic lines. This means that some households that are able to afford broadband can’t connect because providers don’t offer the service where they live.
The Federal Communications Commission has tried to put the divisions back together, but it’s been difficult without funding and support from the federal government. Broadband has been classified as an information service in recent years, which has meant that the FCC hasn’t had a lot of control over providers. If broadband is reclassified as a telecommunications service, then the FCC could gain more control over what happens regarding providers. There are usually fewer regulations if a service is deemed informational compared to tighter policies with a telecommunications service. There are usually tools needed for competing providers as well as ways that providers are to treat customers so that more people have access to broadband.
Back and Forth
Instead of the back and forth details tossed around by the federal government and the FCC, the Biden administration has worked to craft a plan that puts broadband back to a telecommunications service, which would then deem it as essential. Once this is in place, then providers can offer more assistance for customers who might not be able to afford internet. More agencies can also offer help with paying for broadband so that they can stay connected. Data caps could drop off for those who have a satellite connection, and there could be price caps put in place for those who are on a limited income so that they don’t pay over a certain amount for broadband. One thing to keep in mind is that customers might have speeds that are closer to normal or 25 Mbps if they do receive assistance from a provider or an agency compared to faster speeds for those who can afford to pay the extra amount each month.
One of the issues that some people are concerned about is the funding for connecting more people and paying for the monthly bills. The infrastructure bill has plans in place to cover the funding needed and could use money from taxpayers in the future. The combination of the FCC taking control of broadband once again and the government funding the service could mean that more people connect to each other and to the rest of the world.