Guiding Principles & Legislative Checklist for Broadband Subsidies
President Joe Biden in November 2021 signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Among other provisions, the law allocated $42.45 billion toward last-mile broadband development, with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) directed to administer those funds through the newly created Broadband Equity, Access & Deployment (BEAD) program. The BEAD program will provide broadband grants to states, who may then subgrant the money to public and private telecommunications providers.
Serious analysis of the proper roles for government and the private sector in reaching the unserved is a necessary prerequisite for successful rollout of broadband-infrastructure spending. Public investment in broadband infrastructure should focus on the cost-effective provision of Internet access to those who don’t have it, rather than subsidizing competition in areas that already do.