Extending Broadband to More Americans

The infrastructure bill would provide billions to improve internet access to rural and low-income households.

photo of Blair Levin
(Image credit: Photo by Ryan Donnell)

Blair Levin is a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. From 2009 to 2010, he oversaw the development of the U.S. National Broadband Plan at the Federal Communications Commission. In August, Kiplinger’s spoke with Levin about the $1 trillion infrastructure bill, which allocates $65 billion to expand high-speed internet access in the U.S. The Senate approved the bill in August; at press time, it was pending in the House.

Recent data from Pew Research shows that although rural areas are more wired than in the past, many rural areas continue to lack dependable broadband service—a problem that became glaringly apparent during the pandemic. How does the infrastructure bill address this? There were two significant problems Congress sought to address in the bill. The first is the access problem—whether communities have access to an adequate broadband network. Congress allocated $42.5 billion to the states to solve that problem. The second problem is adoption, which is primarily, but not exclusively, a problem of affordability. Congress acted to address that with $14 billion to help low-income individuals purchase broadband services and by allocating a couple of billion dollars to provide digital training. There are millions of Americans who don’t have the training to use broadband applications.

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Sandra Block
Senior Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

Block joined Kiplinger in June 2012 from USA Today, where she was a reporter and personal finance columnist for more than 15 years. Prior to that, she worked for the Akron Beacon-Journal and Dow Jones Newswires. In 1993, she was a Knight-Bagehot fellow in economics and business journalism at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She has a BA in communications from Bethany College in Bethany, W.Va.