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Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo on Biden’s universal broadband plan


Gina Raimondo, Commerce Secretary, stated that she supports the Administration’s goal to have universal broadband available by 2030. However it is possible that the distribution of funds under the new infrastructure law could take many years. 

 “I knew the president would be able to deliver on this,” Raimondo said in an interview with CNBC. We’ve been working hard on it ever since I got here. The bill has not been passed without our efforts.”

Last month, President Biden signed the trillion-dollar infrastructure bill into law. It includes $65 billion for broadband access improvements and affordability. Most of that is funneled through Commerce, and Raimondo said that some of those dollars – such as money for tribal governments – are starting to trickle out. 

The bulk of funding however will be delayed. It plans to create a procedure for state applicants to receive the funds by May. Also, it is waiting on FCC updates to its controversial broadband accessibility maps. These are expected in the middle of next a year. The money might not be disbursed until 2023.

Still, Raimondo said she is confident that every household will be connected by the end of the decade – if not sooner.

She stated that “people will begin to feel relief instantly.” We will need to work for years before we can achieve our vision of affordable high-speed internet access in every American household.

Raimondo stated that she is in discussions with both state and local officials as well industry leaders to get the bill through. A virtual roundtable will be held with her on Wednesday. EtsyJosh Silverman CEO eBay CEO Jamie Iannone, AirbnbNathan Blecharczyk, co-founder BlockAmrita Ahuja, former Square’s CFO, to talk about the importance broadband access for their bottom line as well as the country’s economic growth. 

The Federal Communications Commission estimates that 14.5 million Americans do not have high-speed Internet access. However, experts outside warn that this number could be much higher.

Broadband Now claims that as many as 42,000,000 people do not have access to high speed internet. MicrosoftAccording to some estimates, half of Americans don’t use broadband internet access.

There are also differences in connectivity within states. Pew Research polls show that only 72% of rural households have access to broadband, while 79 percent live in cities. 

Bhaskar Chakravorti (dean of global commerce at Tufts University’s Fletcher School at Tufts University) stated that “there is a political division which is contributing towards the budget divide” and was the founder of the Digital Planet research initiative.

He estimated that closing the gap would cost $240 billion. This is more than twice the pledged spending by the Administration. The solution could lie in strengthening the public-private partnership.

Chakravorti stated that the private sector is able to benefit from an internet-connected community. 

Broadband connectivity is not only a concern for big tech companies but all small businesses who rely on these platforms. Raimondo suggested that women entrepreneurs would be especially benefited.

According to her, “Women have not returned in the workforce as much as we did before the Pandemic,” Selling on Etsy or being an Airbnb host is a way for women make money while still providing for their families. However, you can’t do it without broadband.  

Katherine Eggers moved with her husband to rural Colorado on a nine-acre farm during the height of the pandemic. The sagebrush fields and lavender fields are where cell phone service is limited. And for the first month in her new home, there was no high-speed internet – a major problem for a virtual yoga instructor.

Eggers said that she thought Eggers would be forced to leave her online job due to the poor internet. It was on the table.

But she connected quickly through a non-profit that specializes on wireless broadband. Eggers can now make her living completely from their home. 

Her yoga classes have been thriving.  Her guesthouse was wired up for high-speed Internet and she began renting it on Airbnb at $85 per night. In fact, her internet connection now works so well that Eggers decided to enroll in a master’s program in counseling – online.

Eggers stated, “When we purchased this house we declared that this was where we were going to die.” We plan to stay here for many years.”