Billion-dollar US broadband bonanza awaits Biden's blessing – what you need to know

Infrastructure bill brings $65bn to freshen up American internet


US broadband is about to get a major cash injection through the $1.2tr bipartisan infrastructure bill approved by the House of Representatives on Friday.

The bill, passed by the Senate in August, is expected to be signed by President Biden in the next few days.

"The Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal will deliver $65 billion to help ensure that every American has access to reliable high-speed internet through a historic investment in broadband infrastructure deployment," the White House said in a statement. "The legislation will also help lower prices for internet service and help close the digital divide, so that more Americans can afford internet access."

The infrastructure bill includes:

  • $42.5bn for the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program, which provides grants to help internet service providers develop broadband connectivity in underserved areas in the US States, Washington DC, Puerto Rico and other US territories. The program will be administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).
  • $14.2bn for the Emergency Broadband Benefit program, which has subsidized broadband access during the pandemic and has been renamed the Affordable Connectivity program to reflect that it's no longer pegged to a specific public health event. It now provides a $30 monthly discount, down from $50, on internet service for qualifying households and applies to all service tiers, so as to prevent ISPs from offering it selectively to steer customers toward more profitable plans.
  • $2.75bn for the Digital Equity Act, to help states ensure underserved communities have equal access to the internet and to fund projects that make the internet more accessible to a broad range of people.
  • $2bn for Tribal Connectivity, to improve broadband in areas governed by Native American tribes.
  • $1bn for Middle Mile Connectivity, to improve network interconnection points (leased dark fiber, interoffice transport, backhaul, carrier-neutral internet exchange facilities, and so on).

The infrastructure bill also forbids Digital Discrimination by internet service providers, which means that access should not be based on income level, race, ethnicity, color, religion, or national origin. It also calls for the restoration of Consumer Broadband Labels, which disclose broadband service prices and features.

The Obama administration unveiled broadband service labels in 2016, based on a 2015 FCC net neutrality order that expanded disclosures established in 2010, only to see them tossed by the Trump administration.

The bill supports projects that will provide broadband speeds of at least 100Mbps down and 20Mbps up, with sufficient latency for real-time interactive applications. And it defines "underserved locations" to mean less than 25Mbps down and 3Mbps up, or lacking the latency to support real-time interactive applications.

"Implemented properly, this investment should go great distances toward connecting the millions of rural consumers who still need reliable, sustainable and affordable access – improving economic opportunity, job creation, education, healthcare and civic engagement," said Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of the Rural Broadband Association, in a statement.

The Benton Institute for Broadband and Society has summarized the broadband enhancements and describes the process by which states should woo NTIA for funds. ®


Other stories you might like

  • Prisons transcribe private phone calls with inmates using speech-to-text AI

    Plus: A drug designed by machine learning algorithms to treat liver disease reaches human clinical trials and more

    In brief Prisons around the US are installing AI speech-to-text models to automatically transcribe conversations with inmates during their phone calls.

    A series of contracts and emails from eight different states revealed how Verus, an AI application developed by LEO Technologies and based on a speech-to-text system offered by Amazon, was used to eavesdrop on prisoners’ phone calls.

    In a sales pitch, LEO’s CEO James Sexton told officials working for a jail in Cook County, Illinois, that one of its customers in Calhoun County, Alabama, uses the software to protect prisons from getting sued, according to an investigation by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

    Continue reading
  • Battlefield 2042: Please don't be the death knell of the franchise, please don't be the death knell of the franchise

    Another terrible launch, but DICE is already working on improvements

    The RPG Greetings, traveller, and welcome back to The Register Plays Games, our monthly gaming column. Since the last edition on New World, we hit level cap and the "endgame". Around this time, item duping exploits became rife and every attempt Amazon Games made to fix it just broke something else. The post-level 60 "watermark" system for gear drops is also infuriating and tedious, but not something we were able to address in the column. So bear these things in mind if you were ever tempted. On that note, it's time to look at another newly released shit show – Battlefield 2042.

    I wanted to love Battlefield 2042, I really did. After the bum note of the first-person shooter (FPS) franchise's return to Second World War theatres with Battlefield V (2018), I stupidly assumed the next entry from EA-owned Swedish developer DICE would be a return to form. I was wrong.

    The multiplayer military FPS market is dominated by two forces: Activision's Call of Duty (COD) series and EA's Battlefield. Fans of each franchise are loyal to the point of zealotry with little crossover between player bases. Here's where I stand: COD jumped the shark with Modern Warfare 2 in 2009. It's flip-flopped from WW2 to present-day combat and back again, tried sci-fi, and even the Battle Royale trend with the free-to-play Call of Duty: Warzone (2020), which has been thoroughly ruined by hackers and developer inaction.

    Continue reading
  • American diplomats' iPhones reportedly compromised by NSO Group intrusion software

    Reuters claims nine State Department employees outside the US had their devices hacked

    The Apple iPhones of at least nine US State Department officials were compromised by an unidentified entity using NSO Group's Pegasus spyware, according to a report published Friday by Reuters.

    NSO Group in an email to The Register said it has blocked an unnamed customers' access to its system upon receiving an inquiry about the incident but has yet to confirm whether its software was involved.

    "Once the inquiry was received, and before any investigation under our compliance policy, we have decided to immediately terminate relevant customers’ access to the system, due to the severity of the allegations," an NSO spokesperson told The Register in an email. "To this point, we haven’t received any information nor the phone numbers, nor any indication that NSO’s tools were used in this case."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021