The first National Broadband Plan, published in 2010, put forward six goals for the decade ahead. While progress has been made since then, by 2020 most of its long-term targets for affordable, high-speed access had not been achieved. This includes creating the world’s fastest wireless networks. As of 2021, the United States is not among the top 10 countries in the world for either mobile or broadband Internet speed.
To change that, the federal government’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes $65 billion for broadband. It’s a start. A Brookings analysis of the American Rescue Plan identifies more than $388 billion for which projects to advance various aspects of digital equity are allowable uses.
The pandemic gave this work new urgency. Disadvantaged Americans who lack affordable, high-speed Internet service suffered from poor access to everything from public health updates and health care to education, social services, jobs, food and family.
In 2017, the Federal Communications Commission estimated that it would take an investment of $80 billion to give every American access to high-speed (25/3 Mbps) Internet. With funding now available, states could begin to make this happen, but it will depend on how the money is spent.