December 9, 2023

President Joe Biden signs the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Extension Act of 2021 in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, USA on March 30, 2021.

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

President Joe Biden plans to dramatically expand Internet access for Americans with a $ 100 billion investment as part of his new $ 2 trillion infrastructure plan unveiled on Wednesday.

The proposal also includes investments in the electric vehicle market, which the Biden Plan bills as job creators, as well as in research and development programs. The plan aims to close racial and gender gaps in science, technology, engineering, and math by proposing investments directed to historically black colleges and universities, and institutions that serve minorities.

Here are some of the key parts of the proposal aimed at improving U.S. technical infrastructure and capabilities:

Expansion of broadband access

Biden is trying to connect all Americans to the Internet by investing $ 100 billion in expanding broadband access.

In a 2021 report, the Federal Communications Commission estimated that as of late 2019, approximately 14.5 million Americans were living in areas with no access to fixed broadband, which hits its benchmark for speed. However, other sources like Microsoft and Broadband Now have estimated a much higher number of Americans who do not have access to high quality broadband.

Biden’s investment proposal would target underserved areas and prioritize support for broadband networks associated with local governments, nonprofits and cooperatives. It would also provide funding for tribal lands, which are among the areas most lacking in high-speed internet access.

The plan emphasizes the need for robust competition in the broadband market for the benefit of consumers. It would remove barriers that prevent municipal or affiliated providers and rural co-operatives from competing equally with private companies and require price transparency from internet providers.

Under the proposal, Biden acknowledges that internet subsidies may be needed in the short term, but believes that a long term solution must aim to lower internet prices for consumers overall.

More about the infrastructure

President Joe Biden proposed a $ 2 trillion infrastructure package that would cover everything from roads and bridges to green energy. Check out our coverage here:

The plan has already been criticized by a think tank funded by a group in the telecommunications industry. Doug Brake, director of broadband and spectrum policy for the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, said the plan was “going overboard and threatening to undermine the system of private competition that successfully serves most of the United States.”

“Undoubtedly the United States desperately needs rural broadband subsidies, but this is not an area where all dials can be turned to 11,” Brake said in a statement. “If not properly pursued, such a large investment can undermine the incentives for private capital to invest even when it is profitable to do so, ultimately undermining the innovation engine for next-generation connectivity.”

Invest in research and development

Biden calls on Congress to invest 180 billion US dollars in research and development as well as in new technologies to put the US on the road to success, including in its innovation race with China.

As part of this investment, Biden would like the National Science Foundation to be allocated $ 50 billion to create a technology directorate that will work together and build on existing government programs, with a focus on areas such as semiconductors, advanced computing and biotechnology. He wants $ 30 billion to be spent on research and development to fuel innovation and job creation, with a focus on rural areas, and $ 40 billion to improve research infrastructure.

Specifically, the plan provides for investments in historically black colleges and universities and facilities that serve minorities, for example by allocating half the dollars to modernize research infrastructure for those facilities. The government cites research showing that US innovation would be much higher if people affected by structural barriers, such as women, people of color, and children of low-income families, were invented at rates by groups that are not .

The proposal includes $ 10 billion in R&D investment in HBCUs and MSIs and $ 15 billion to create up to 200 centers of excellence in such institutions to serve as research incubators and opportunities for underserved populations.

Biden’s R&D investment plan also includes a focus on climate issues with a proposal for a new national climate-focused laboratory affiliated with an HBCU. Biden wants $ 35 billion to find solutions to “technological breakthroughs” to address the climate crisis and position the US as a leader in clean energy technologies and jobs.

Invest in electric vehicles

The Biden Plan provides $ 174 billion to help make the US the leader in the electric vehicle market and stay one step ahead of China. The money would allow automakers to build domestic supply chains, overhaul their factories, and support local workers.

This would also encourage consumers to purchase American-made electric vehicles by giving them discounts and point-of-sale tax incentives. The plan aims to build a national network of half a million EV chargers by 2030. The government is also aiming to replace 50,000 diesel transit vehicles, electrify at least 20% of yellow school buses, and work on electrifying federal vehicles such as the United States Postal Service.

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