Eric Thompson

Biden’s $42 Billion Broadband Initiative: Not One User Connected

President Joe Biden’s ambitious $42 billion broadband initiative, heralded as a transformative step towards closing the digital divide, has yet to connect a single user to the internet.

This revelation raises serious questions about the efficacy and management of a program intended to provide high-speed internet access to rural and underserved areas across the United States.

Launched with great fanfare, the Biden administration’s broadband plan aimed to bridge the gap between urban and rural internet access, a critical issue brought into sharp focus during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rural areas have been waiting a long time for broadband service. Many rely on slow internet that travels over copper lines and are unable to transmit large amounts of data. Some areas have no internet at all.

The plan’s goal was clear: to ensure that every American, regardless of geographic location, could benefit from the opportunities afforded by reliable, high-speed internet.

However, a year into its implementation the Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr said their goal of providing high-speed internet to most underserved areas will not be fully realized until 2030, nine years after its enactment.

“There hasn’t been a single shovel’s worth of dirt that has even been turned towards connecting people,” Mr. Carr said.

Critics argue that the failure to connect even a single user underscores significant flaws in the plan’s execution and oversight.

As Rep. Bob Latta, Ohio Republican, pointed out, “This is another example of a rushed, poorly thought-out policy that was more about scoring political points than delivering real results for the American people.”

Central to the plan’s faltering progress is the bureaucratic complexity and regulatory hurdles that have plagued its rollout. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), tasked with administering the funds, has faced substantial challenges in coordinating with state governments and private internet service providers (ISPs). These coordination issues have led to significant delays in project approvals and fund disbursement.

Moreover, the plan’s reliance on outdated broadband maps has further complicated efforts. These maps, which form the basis for determining areas eligible for funding, have been widely criticized for their inaccuracy.

Many regions classified as adequately served are, in reality, suffering from poor or non-existent internet connectivity. This discrepancy has led to misallocation of resources and has hampered the initiative’s ability to target the areas most in need.

The inefficacy of the broadband plan also reflects broader issues within the Biden administration’s approach to infrastructure projects. The ambitious scale of the initiative necessitated a level of administrative agility and precision that has been conspicuously lacking. As the Washington Times highlighted, the program’s sluggish start is reminiscent of other large-scale federal projects that have struggled with similar bureaucratic inertia.

Adding to the criticism, many argue that the program’s structure disproportionately favors large ISPs, thereby stifling competition and innovation. By directing the bulk of funds to major corporations, the plan risks entrenching the very monopolies that have contributed to the digital divide. Small, community-based ISPs, which are often better positioned to serve rural areas, have been largely sidelined.

In response to the growing criticism, the Biden administration has maintained that the plan is on track and that initial setbacks are being addressed. White House spokesperson John Kirby stated, “We are committed to ensuring every American has access to high-speed internet, and we are working diligently to overcome the initial challenges.”

Yet, for many in rural America, the administration’s reassurances ring hollow. The lack of tangible progress has left countless families and businesses without the vital connectivity needed to participate in the modern economy. This digital disenfranchisement perpetuates economic disparities and hampers educational opportunities, particularly in regions already struggling with limited resources.

The frustration is palpable among those who were hopeful that the broadband plan would bring much-needed change. Lisa Becker, a small business owner in rural West Virginia, expressed her disappointment: “We’ve been promised high-speed internet for years, but it’s all talk. Without reliable internet, our children can’t learn properly, and our businesses can’t grow.”

The Biden administration’s broadband initiative, despite its noble intentions, serves as a cautionary tale of the challenges inherent in large-scale federal interventions. The gap between promise and performance, as illustrated by the program’s current state, highlights the need for more effective planning, oversight, and execution.

Moving forward, it is imperative that the administration reassess its strategy and address the structural issues that have impeded progress. This includes updating the broadband maps to reflect the actual needs of communities, streamlining regulatory processes, and fostering a competitive environment that empowers smaller ISPs.

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