Democratic candidates’ take on broadband plan – and IIA’s view to 5G

Next Gov recently ran a letter to the editor from Bruce Mehlman, founding co-chairman of Internet Innovation Alliance. It gives a quick synopsis on how Democtractic candidates are leaning in regards to broadband…

In a very crowded Democratic primary—October’s presidential primary debate was the largest in American history—the issue of broadband access is popping up with great (and welcome) frequency. With this month’s debate fast-approaching on Nov. 20, candidates are continuing to try to distinguish themselves and, as often happens in campaigns, there’s a bidding war going on.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, for instance, has proposed spending $20 billion on broadband access; Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren quadruples that with a proposal for $85 billion. Not to be outdone, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders wants to spend $150 billion on broadband deployment (as former Sen. Everett Dirksen once said, “A billion here, a billion there; pretty soon you’re talking about real money”).  Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar wants to connect every house to the internet by 2022 as part of a $1 trillion plan to improve the country’s infrastructure. …

Mayor Pete Buttigieg favors a “public option” for broadband in areas “[w]here companies have not provided coverage or where it is unaffordable”, with a total cost of about $80 billion.

Mehlman’s not very positive of most of their plans in short because he seems to prefer a provider-focused plan and his focus seems to be on 5G…

If the private sector does not have the right incentives to invest in broadband deployments, how can it invest the tens, even hundreds, of billions each year that will be necessary for the full deployment of 5G wireless technology? Without those investments, we cannot make the next leaps in connectivity and security—things like truly connected cars, the internet of things, and other innovations that will improve our daily lives even more radically than in the past decade. If the dollars do not come from the private sector, we can expect presidential candidates in 2024 or 2028 to call for trillions in government investments, while bemoaning our national failure to keep up with Chinese 5G investments that are happening today.

Worse, some of the Democratic candidates’ proposals would permit this spending only for certain types of groups—not private-sector network operators who have delivered broadband across the country for the past 20 years … but instead only for local governments, nonprofits, and cooperative organizations. Some candidates explicitly favor government-funded networks to the exclusion of private players.

He has a solution…

Fortunately, there is a better way: Encourage private sector investments and then target federal funding to areas that, principally for reasons of geography, are difficult to serve. There is no need to reinvent the wheel—or to shift broadband to government-owned-and-operated networks—for everyone to enjoy fast broadband service across the country.

But the focus on 5G gives me pause to question how highly he has prioritized rural America in his plan.

This entry was posted in Elections, Policy, Wireless by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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