Warren makes $85bn proposal to protect net neutrality, expand broadband

We don’t often talk politics here at The Tech Report, but we do spend a lot of time on the internet. And that makes a new blog post from Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) particularly interesting. In that post under the “A Public Options for Broadband” section, Warren explains the two prongs of her proposal.  First, make internet access more equitable for people with low income and in rural areas. Second, make access more competitive for ISPs who aren’t as big as the gigantic telecom companies.

Warren’s broadband proposal

Warren says that under her $85 billion plan, she’ll to ensure “every home in America has a fiber broadband connection at a price families can afford.” Warren notes that at least 25% of people living in rural areas and tribal lands don’t have access to internet that qualifies as basic broadband. With how inaccurate the FCC’s broadband maps are, the figure is likely even higher.

The subsidy program would work through an Office of Broadband Access, and the plan would address both speed and competition. This isn’t a government-run ISP, though. Instead, Warren wants to provide the subsidies to smaller telecom businesses, co-ops, and organizations. The grants would help them to compete with big ISPs in ways they can’t right now.

To lay fiber in a new area, the ISP has to offer two plans. A 100 Mbps up/100 Mbps down plan for speed, and a discount option for low-income customers. The idea here is that previous broadband subsidies have seen telecoms lay down minimal wire to qualify for a subsidy meant to pay for a lot more. The dual-plan requirement ensures that neither robust service nor low-income customers are ignored.

“[The ISPs] have deliberately restricted competition, kept prices high, and used their armies of lobbyists to convince state legislatures to ban municipalities from building their own public networks,” Warren writes. “Meanwhile, the federal government has shoveled billions of taxpayer dollars to private ISPs in an effort to expand broadband to remote areas, but those providers have done the bare minimum with these resources — offering internet speeds well below the FCC minimum.”

Net neutrality is a big deal for Warren, too (and something we’ve been talking about since way back). Warren wants to appoint FCC commissioners that support net neutrality under Title II, work for more accurate versions of those broadband maps we talked about, and push back against anti-competitive moves; Warren cites landlords making deals with private ISPs on their properties as one example of this.

A few caveats

These all sound like interesting ideas. The sheer size of companies like Comcast and Verizon makes competition from smaller telecoms almost impossible. It also allows those big companies to push for legislation to make such competition—even from municipal ISPs—even more difficult. Bringing other companies into the mix would provide competition and access, and with those, speed and reliability would likely follow.

The biggest hurdle to this is that Warren wants to use federal legislation to help this along; this move historically sees heavy opposition.

It also goes without saying that these are election promises from a presidential hopeful. That she’s laying these out so prominently so early on is a good sign, though. This could push lacking access into the limelight during presidential debates as we head into 2020.

10 Comments
    • psuedonymous
    • 2 weeks ago

    And yet still, no Local Loop Unbundling. That alone would open up last-mile ISP competition overnight and mark a massive change in the market for US ISPs compared to… pretty much anywhere else. The majority of issue in the US are due not so much the need to lay new connections to properties, but that existing connections (be they over fibre, DOCSIS or DSL) are locked to a single monopoly supplier. LLU means completion between ISPs for those connected users, which forces prices down and service levels up.
    It’s not as if the “but we had to pay to build that private infrastructure, you can’t make us share!” argument holds any water, that infrastructure was paid for several times over following the 1996 Telecommunications Act deregulating ISPs on promises that deregulation would increase competition and profits would be used to fund fibre rollouts. Instead, fibre rollouts never happened and competition tanked as the larger providers scooped up all smaller competitors and exited areas larger competitors were operating in.

    Reply
    • The lost cat
    • 2 weeks ago

    I got fiber at 50/10 and I’d love a speed upgrade, but I don’t see the point at all.

    It’s just weird to have 100/100 be the minimum.

    Reply
      • usacomp2k3 (AJ)
      • 2 weeks ago

      30/5 seems like a reasonable minimum.

      Reply
    • Mark R Wyman
    • 2 weeks ago

    She is coming at this from the NYS experience with Spectrum . What a f-ing train wreck. I applaud this move since it really is an infrastructure investment that *should* pay for itself in the long run by increasing the economy in rural areas. Maybe we should pull a little funding from our overly rambunctious “defense” budget to pay for it?

    3
    4
    Reply
    • Krogoth
    • 2 weeks ago

    Remember when Friday Night Topic was a regular thing and often a magnetic for R&P materials?

    Glue Farms remembers…….

    Reply
    • chuckula
    • 2 weeks ago

    “We don’t often talk politics here at The Tech Report,”

    Yes and that was yet another reason I liked the old TR.

    But if you want to be on-topic: Politician running for president promises free sh&t and claims that somebody else will pay for it. In other news, the sky is blue.

    6
    8
    Reply
      • Mr Bill
      • 2 weeks ago

      From the headline I immediately thought Warren Buffet. Welcome to R&P front page style.

      Reply
        • usacomp2k3 (AJ)
        • 2 weeks ago

        So did I.

        Reply
      • NO Warren Buffet would pay for it himself if he sees a profit in it !!!

        Reply
      • Spunjji
      • 2 weeks ago

      You don’t like tech sites discussing politics even when it’s tech-relevant and done in a studiously non-partisan fashion? I’d say that’s thin-skinned, but at this stage I’m wondering if you even *have* an epidermis.

      Re: your tired critique – she’s not offering anything for free and specifically stated a budget for the plan, so that would be 0 for 2. This is low-grade stuff, chuckles. But then I live in England, where the sky is predominantly shades of grey, so what do I know…

      4
      3
      Reply

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This