The Biden administration has talked about bringing everyone together and closing the digital divide since the first day of office in 2021. However, it could take a significant amount of money to accomplish this task. Politicians have talked about the amount of money with some believing that it could take much less than what others anticipate.
There are about 12 million people in the country who don't have access to internet services or who aren't able to connect to internet services that are available. These are services that are designated by the Federal Communications Commission as being standard broadband with a download speed of 25 Mbps and an upload speed of at least 3 Mbps. The cost of the services that are available is an issue keeping about 30 million people from connecting to the internet. This means that there are two aspects that need to be resolved. These are the availability of internet services
and the price so that more people can afford this necessity. Any funding that is approved would need to be able to cover the implementation of networks, equipment that's needed to get internet
to those who don't have access at all, and ways to lower the costs associated with connecting and staying connected.
What Needs to be Addressed First?
Each aspect needs to be fixed, but the funding is the first component that needs to be approved. Subsidies to allow for more people to connect to internet services that are already available would be a huge step in the right direction before new services are installed. With over 30% of people in the country living in a home without internet and over 25% of those unable to pay for internet services, subsidies could result in more people staying connected to schools and jobs as well as each other. Those who make under $20,000 a year would likely benefit the most from subsidies as there are about 35% of homes with no internet who fall into this category. Those in black and Hispanic populations also see a great divide between those who can pay for the services and those who are unable to connect at all.
In June 2021, the America's Communication's Association provided a report detailing some of the costs associated with closing the divide between homes that can afford internet and those who have to do without because of the inability to pay. Lifeline is a program that's already in place that provides subsidies for families. The program could need between $50 and $200 billion in order to provide services to more families for at least 10 years. Most families receive about $50 each month to help with their internet bill. About a quarter of those eligible for the program of the 30 million who don't have internet services have applied and have been receiving the help that's available.
Another issue that needs to be addressed that will cost money is getting the equipment up and running to deliver satellite internet
to rural areas and those who don't have a connection in their town yet. Depending on the equipment needed, it the amount of money needed could be close to $190 billion. Higher speeds would require more money because of the equipment involved in the deployment. The first step would be to get everyone connected to at least the minimum speeds set by the FCC.