Biden's Broadband Push Is Good, But Crappy Maps And Lobbying Can Still Screw Things Up

from the do not pass go, do not collect $200 dept

So to be very clear: the Biden infrastructure bill has a lot of good things for broadband in it. More specifically, billions in grant money that can be used by states to shore up both “middle mile” and “last mile” broadband access across huge swaths of the country. It’s the biggest lump sum ever doled out by the government for broadband, and it will have a huge positive impact on the nation’s broadband gaps. Especially in perpetually marginalized areas. That can’t be understated.

That said, this isn’t the first time we’ve tried to throw a big chunk of cash at the U.S. broadband problem, and there are numerous ways this could still go south.

The plan relies on many states to build entirely new systems to distribute and spend that money. Given rampant state corruption in broadband policymaking, there’s an unlimited number of ways that entrenched regional monopolies (Comcast, Charter, AT&T, Verizon, CenturyLink (Lumen), Frontier) could inject themselves into the process to ensure more money goes to them for dubious deployment promises, and less goes to smaller competitors or faster, better services.

ISP lobbyists already stripped a lot of language they didn’t like out of the original proposal, including clear support for community broadband and tougher speed standards. Now their lobbying folks are busy lobbying the NTIA, which has been tasked with crafting additional standards and funding guidelines in six short months:

“Meanwhile, internet service providers (ISPs) are expected to aggressively lobby the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) as it crafts new internet rules under the infrastructure bill’s $65 billion broadband expansion plan. The relatively tiny agency has six months to develop a proposal that will require recipients of federal broadband funding to provide a low-cost broadband option and encourage states to explore alternatives to dominant ISPs such as coops, nonprofits and municipalities.”

U.S. broadband has a 30 year history of ISPs taking billions of dollars for networks they then half deploy, usually with little or no penalty. Whether that happens again here depends entirely on how tough the NTIA and FCC are going to be with regional monopolies, historically neither agencies’ strong suit. And again, more than half the states in the country are literally little more than rubber stamps for the interests of giants like AT&T, so diligence will be required to ensure the money is going toward productive, pro-competitive solutions.

The other major obstacle is the country’s broadband maps, which still don’t accurately track broadband speed, pricing, and availability despite decades of complaints on this subject. While Congress, the FCC, and NTIA have all taken some helpful steps toward better mapping, actual implementation of those reforms are still several million dollars and several years away. That’s too late for states, many of which are currently working on spending $10 billion to shore up access, with $42 billion from the infrastructure bill still on the way. In other words, we’re trying to fix a problem we still haven’t accurately measured the scope of:

“For now, though, many states don’t know where to put that first round of cash. They have only a murky picture of where their internet dead spots are, thanks to the federal government’s reliance on broadband mapping methods that dramatically overstate existing coverage.”

Here too, telecom lobbyists, eager to obfuscate the obvious end result of monopolization, limited competition, and regulatory capture, have routinely blocked reform (and will continue to do so). So there’s a lot of money being thrown at a system that historically doesn’t measure the problem it’s tasked with fixing very well, often can’t even acknowledge why the problem exists in the first place (again: regional monopolization, corruption, regulatory capture), and doesn’t like to challenge wealthy and politically powerful telecom corporations tethered to our intelligence and law enforcement apparatus.

That’s not to say a change from the US telecom status quo is impossible; there’s a lot of good folks working very hard to do this the right way. But it is to say that doing any of this correctly is going to require some uncharacteristic aggression, competence, and integrity we haven’t seen in the last forty years of telecom policy.

Filed Under: , , , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Biden's Broadband Push Is Good, But Crappy Maps And Lobbying Can Still Screw Things Up”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment

ISP lobbyists already stripped a lot of language they didn’t like out of the original proposal, including clear support for community broadband and tougher speed standards.

The current weak standard is 25 Mbps down, 3 Mbps up. Reminds me of the old Conan O’Brien show: "… It’s time, once again, to look into the future … all the way to the year 2000."

Seriously, DOCSIS 1.0 could beat those speeds in the year 2000 (42 Mbps down, 10 Mbps up; granted, only with uncongested nodes).


"For now, though, many states don’t know where to put that first round of cash"

I’m sure the same companies who refused to upgrade their infrastructure after accepting the money last time have some suggestions… Maybe the same companies who have just released an new round of "it’s so unfair that Netflix don’t pay us a 3rd time for bandwidth they and our customers already pay for" complaints might ask a few questions.


Love this

T-mobile must be suffering bad.

There map for 5G.

And the USA science for 5g is funny as hell. Got them from UK site.
Max speed of:
4g 300mbps
5g 10gbps

REAL world?
4g 42mbps
5g 200mbps

lets do a % comparison of drop speed.
4g 42/300= 14% of max speed.
5g 200/10000= 2% of max speed.

My phone is getting 100mbps, and Im out in the country.


Re: Lobbyist efforts

How about
We are the capitalist system
WE are the only capitalist system
WE created Copy rights and Intellectual property
All money belongs to US.
WE dont share, unless you can pay for it.
Generally More then once.
No other country does it Like we do
And if we can Bring money back to us, we will Take them over also.
Not them
NOT international corps.
We make independent corps in every nation, all under our control.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Older Stuff
13:40 It's Great That Winnie The Pooh Is In The Public Domain; But He Should Have Been Free In 1982 (Or Earlier) (35)
12:06 Norton 360 Now Comes With Crypto Mining Capabilities And Sketchy Removal Process (28)
10:45 Chinese Government Dragnet Now Folding In American Social Media Platforms To Silence Dissent (14)
10:40 Daily Deal: The 2022 Ultimate Cybersecurity Analyst Preparation Bundle (0)
09:29 A Fight Between Facebook And The British Medical Journal Highlights The Difficulty Of Moderating 'Medical Misinformation' (9)
06:29 Court Ruling Paves The Way For Better, More Reliable Wi-Fi (4)
20:12 Eighth Circuit (Again) Says There's Nothing Wrong With Detaining Innocent Minors At Gunpoint (15)
15:48 China's Regulatory War On Its Gaming Industry Racks Up 14k Casualties (10)
13:31 Chinese Government Fines Local Car Dealerships For Surveilling While Not Being The Government (5)
12:08 Eric Clapton Pretends To Regret The Decision To Sue Random German Woman Who Listed A Bootleg Of One Of His CDs On Ebay (29)
10:44 ICE Is So Toxic That The DHS's Investigative Wing Is Asking To Be Completely Separated From It (29)
10:39 Daily Deal: The 2022 Complete Raspberry Pi And Arduino Developer Bundle (0)
09:31 Google Blocked An Article About Police From The Intercept... Because The Title Included A Phrase That Was Also A Movie Title (24)
06:22 Wireless Carriers Balk At FAA Demand For 5G Deployment Delays Amid Shaky Safety Concerns (16)
19:53 Tenth Circuit Denies Qualified Immunity To Social Worker Who Fabricated A Mother's Confession Of Child Abuse (35)
15:39 Sci-Hub's Creator Thinks Academic Publishers, Not Her Site, Are The Real Threat To Science, And Says: 'Any Law Against Knowledge Is Fundamentally Unjust' (34)
13:32 Federal Court Tells Proud Boys Defendants That Raiding The Capitol Building Isn't Covered By The First Amendment (25)
12:14 US Courts Realizing They Have A Judge Alan Albright Sized Problem In Waco (17)
10:44 Boston Police Department Used Forfeiture Funds To Hide Purchase Of Surveillance Tech From City Reps (16)
10:39 Daily Deal: The Ultimate Microsoft Excel Training Bundle (0)
09:20 NY Senator Proposes Ridiculously Unconstitutional Social Media Law That Is The Mirror Opposite Of Equally Unconstitutional Laws In Florida & Texas (25)
06:12 Telecom Monopolies Are Exploiting Crappy U.S. Broadband Maps To Block Community Broadband Grant Requests (7)
12:00 Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of 2021 At Techdirt (17)
10:00 Gaming Like It's 1926: Join The Fourth Annual Public Domain Game Jam (6)
09:00 New Year's Message: The Arc Of The Moral Universe Is A Twisty Path (33)
19:39 DHS, ICE Begin Body Camera Pilot Program With Surprisingly Good Policies In Place (7)
15:29 Remembering Techdirt Contributors Sherwin And Elliot (1)
13:32 DC Metro PD's Powerful Review Panel Keeps Giving Bad Cops Their Jobs Back (6)
12:11 Missouri Governor Still Expects Journalists To Be Prosecuted For Showing How His Admin Leaked Teacher Social Security Numbers (39)
10:48 Oversight Board Overturning Instagram Takedown Of Ayahuasca Post Demonstrates The Impossibility Of Content Moderation (10)
More arrow
This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it