A highlight from Broadband is too expensive. Heres what being done about it (The Daily Charge, 5/25/2021)
We're talking about the digital divide. You often hear about how we need to build out infrastructure to reach everyone in america but millions of people have access to internet service. They just can't afford it. So what's being done about this broader chang and this is your daily charge the to your conversation on the digital divide is he. A reporter maggie. Ridden has been digging this issue for years. Welcome meg thanks for having me. So we've been talking about the digital divide for a while now but this laser stories that were hang on a really target the affordability aspect so to give our listeners. Scale how people are affected by this so called affordability gap. Yeah i mean. It's it's a big problem. They're probably more people affected by not being able to afford broadband than there are folks who just simply don't have access to it and the us really has like the highest in the western world at least one of the highest broadband rates in terms of how much it costs so you know. Our our broadband is more expensive and we have just a lot of people who can't who can't afford it yet and specifically what communities and populations are disproportionately hurt by this problem. Well it it really hurts a lot of Minority folks and folks who are low income. So you know. Black brown indigenous people who just You know fall into an affordability issue and those communities are really hit hard right and so you build out structure insurance networks which everyone. That's best seems to be the topic that comes up when we talk about the digital divide a lot. Why do you think the conversation about affordability gets sidelined so often. Well i think in our hyper politicized environment. I think part of it has to do with politics. Right when you're talking about An affordability issue particularly for low income. Folks you're talking about poor people and when you have republicans in charge They don't tend to really talk about like Folks who need sort of entitlement type programs to help pay for services so you know president trump. His a lot of his constituents were in rural america and that is an area of our country where we haven't had broadband access so i think he was in some sense trying to play to that base. But the reality is that this affordability gap really you know crosses all boundaries. I mean it isn't just an urban problem. It also is an issue for folks in rural markets to absolutely present. Joe biden has introduced his two trillion dollar infrastructure plan. How does it address. Affordability issue so You know he hasn't slow light on specifics. Still but you know there is a sense that he would like to see broadband prices in general come down and then You know. I think there is an appetite among some democrats to have some sort of subsidy program That sorta offsets the cost of so. We're still kind of waiting on. The details of his plan is going to be but You know. I think that's part of it. Probably that's probably what will sake. Yeah and beyond the the biden plan. I know there are some other programs in place. Like what else is the government doing about this problem Well there's like a lot of. I work happening on capitol hill. There's a bill which really the biden's plan it's probably going to be mirrored a great deal off of a bill from representative clyburn from south carolina and senator klobuchar from minnesota And you know and part of this is going to be about like promoting competition to try to to get more providers out there lowering costs and then also doing some things like a subsidy and this actually happened under the trump administration but when there was the the vade relief in december They passed a provision to to provide a fifty dollar subsidy to folks who've been affected by the pandemic and can't afford broadband in so we might see something like that. You know become a long term solution but right now it's getting rolled out and people are really taking that up the mercy broadband fund or. Yeah that's the emergency broadband benefit or Right that's the one they asked to see talks about a lot. And you mentioned the idea of subsidy and the subsidy is one potential solution that some folks have had pushed for the. The differing opinions are because not. Everyone thinks that there should be a subsidy in place right because i don't think president biden necessarily as supportive of subsidy correct. Well it's you know it's a little unclear.