Low cost broadband: The devil is in the details

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Good afternoon,

One of the more popular features of the Biden-Harris Administration’s American Jobs Plan is a $100 billion investment in broadband Internet.

The administration has proposed expanding access to all rural areas, adding community-owned systems, and subsidizing low-income households.

There is general agreement that more needs to be done to bring high-speed access to the entire nation at an affordable price. This includes a sizable portion of central and southern Delaware.

A recent report from Broadband Now ranked Delaware 14th among the 50 states regarding a combination of speed, access, and affordability.

But as the saying goes, the devil is in the details when it comes to affordable high-speed service.

The State of New York muddied the waters with the passage of a bill that requires broadband providers to offer low-cost service to low-income households. Interestingly enough, New York already ranked near the top in access to affordable service.

Verizon and AT&T struck back with lawsuits that, among other things, claim the affordability requirement for low-income households will stifle investments in broadband.

According to an Axios story, a big worry for the telcos and cable giantsis other state legislatures following along and passing similar bills.

It would not be a stretch for the more progressive members of the Delaware House and Senate to expand their social justice-driven agenda to include broadband.

They would argue that broadband has become a necessity as essential as electricity and should be regulated in the same manner.

But unlike the fixed electrical grid, high-speed broadband technology is evolving rapidly, with wireless access becoming a more viable option, especially in many rural areas. Delaware has its own initiative that focuses on wireless in more sparsely settled areas.

The challenge is to deal with a service that is now a necessity for most of us while spurring competition and not stifling innovation.

The New York law is not the answer, but neither is a system with costs that are out of the reach of far too many who may not qualify for subsidies.

Enjoy your weekend. This newsletter returns on Monday – Doug Rainey, chief content officer.

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