President-elect Joe Biden and top congressional Democrats are preparing to secure a big increase in federal broadband spending next year. They want to obtain billions of dollars in new government aid to improve internet access and affordability — and help people stay online during the pandemic, reports The Washington Post.
Party leaders are debating proposals to extend broadband availability to rural areas, raise internet speeds, help families struggling to pay their internet bills and provide more funding to schools for computers and other equipment. Many Democrats are bullish about their prospects, believing they can corral a series of record-breaking investments.
Their first major opportunity could come as part of a new coronavirus stimulus package, a top priority for Biden as he prepares to enter the White House in January. The president-elect previously endorsed a House-passed relief bill that includes $4 billion in emergency funds to help low-income Americans stay online during the pandemic. Biden also reaffirmed his commitment to universal broadband on Tuesday as part of a broader preview of his economic-recovery agenda.
Many congressional Democrats say they intend to focus their efforts over the next few months in delivering additional broadband aid. Biden endorsed $20 billion in fresh broadband spending during the 2020 presidential race, as his campaign promised to “expand broadband, or wireless broadband via 5G, to every American,” including rural areas.
In an early sign of his continued interest, Biden on Tuesday met with business leaders including Satya Nadella, the chief executive of Microsoft, who encouraged the president-elect to make internet access a national priority, the company confirmed. As the meeting wrapped, and Biden delivered his remarks, he stressed the need for future economic recovery efforts to prioritize “high-speed broadband for every American household.”
A spokeswoman for Biden’s White House transition team declined to comment, pointing to the president-elect’s past remarks.
“There was a time, not that long ago, when Washington saw broadband as nice-to-have, not need-to-have,” said Senior FCC Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel recently; “This pandemic has forever changed that.” Democrats will return to the majority at the agency in January.