back to article Biden's $2tn infrastructure plan includes massive broadband rollout, equates internet access with water and power as essential utilities

A new national infrastructure plan outlined by US President Joe Biden on Wednesday equates fast internet access – broadband – with other utilities including water and power. “President Biden’s plan invests in the infrastructure necessary to finally deliver the water, broadband, and electricity service that Americans deserve,” …

  1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

    Joined up thinking..

    The wording suggests that the federal government will seek to pay companies to lay fiber networks that internet service providers can then offer their services on top of, similar to the municipal networks that have been growing across the US. If that is the intent, the Biden Administration can expect a vast lobbying effort from the likes of AT&T and Comcast that would be strongly opposed to not having control of the physical lines; an approach that defines their entire business model.

    I'm less convinced. Owning infrastructure can be a major PITA and money pit. If physical lines were available on favorable rates and SLAs, they may not object and I've sold dark & lit fibre networks to both in the past. As long as the usual suspects can keep some form of chokehold over the customer, the money keeps on coming and the costs reduce.

    The plan also foresees “price transparency and competition among internet providers, including by lifting barriers that prevent municipally-owned or affiliated providers and rural electric co-ops from competing on an even playing field with private providers, and requiring internet providers to clearly disclose the prices they charge.”

    That'll be the fun one. Muni nets have theoretical advantages over competitors, ie owning existing infrastructure. But this is where there really needs to be the joined-up thinking. So there are huge amounts of dosh being dangled for road & utility infrastructure upgrades. It would be sensible to make that conditional on laying some fibre ducts as that work gets done, and then making that fibre available on an LRIC basis. If you're upgrading (or just fixing) roads, it's a small incremental cost to throw in some ducts vs coming along and digging up those roads later to lay fibre.. Especially when those roads are bridges. Digging those up is FUN!.

    1. NeilPost Silver badge

      Re: Joined up thinking..

      Regulation, fixed wholesale prices and equivalence of access to Openreach’s network in the UK largely works and avoids cable price gouging and other difficulties.

      There is also competition keeping prices keen so Comcast UK (aka Sky) is a UK quad-play (TV, Phone, Broadband, Mobile) hero and not the scum it is in the USA.

      1. SotarrTheWizard
        FAIL

        Re: Joined up thinking..

        I just escaped Comcast in .us several months ago. They're quad-play, at least supposedly, But I don't know anyone who actually uses Comcast Mobile. . . .Doesn't stop them from having truly epic levels of FAIL. . . .

      2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Re: Joined up thinking..

        Regulation, fixed wholesale prices and equivalence of access to Openreach’s network in the UK largely works and avoids cable price gouging and other difficulties.

        Yup, and there's no reason why it shouldn't work in the US for muni networks. Many years ago, I had an interesting phone call and series of meetings with Milton Keynes council. Being a new town, and with US-style zoning, they had some nice infrastructure and were interested in a duct sharing/access arrangement. Which I thought was a good idea, but it was just 1 town in a global network, where at the time being 'facilities based' and owning the infrastructure was the goal. So sadly it didn't go anywhere, but made me a fan of muni-nets.

        Which I think could be an opportunity now for the US piggybacking on infrastructure upgrades.. But with a lot of complexity given Federal/State/County/Town level rules & regulations. But the Internet often uses road analogies, so fibre along trunks, off-ramps and town err.. bus depots? Then have standards-based rules and agreements wrt fibre and interconnects, and call it good.

        There is also competition keeping prices keen so Comcast UK (aka Sky) is a UK quad-play (TV, Phone, Broadband, Mobile) hero and not the scum it is in the USA.

        Give it time? But also where encouraging infrastructure access worked. Comcast doesn't own much of it's broaband infrastructure, it leases that from other operators via LLU and backbone providers. Competition's then at the services level, and switching providers is mostly a software function, rather than waiting for new operator to dig up roads to lay cable. Which adds to the fun for town planners trying to do stuff when their roads are supported by 17 different operator's ducts.

  2. LDS Silver badge
    Devil

    I always like when companies don't like to pay taxes....

    ... but are always happy to get a lot of taxpayers money through lucrative government contracts, and would complain if governments cut such expenditures.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I always like when companies don't like to pay taxes....

      If you can't fund huge government contracts for those companies, how do you expect to keep America full of freedom?

      I mean if the government used tax dolars for social services rather than military spending and other contracts that ensured companies billionaire owners could survive, Americans might catch socialism and everybody knows a mild case of socialism often turns into a full blown case of communism.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: I always like when companies don't like to pay taxes....

        Paying MSFT $45K / soldier for holoeye is the only way to fight Linux Communism

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    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Starlink, do you mean? If so, no, it doesn't.

      Until they can release a lot more satellites, Starlink can't cover the whole world nor can it provide bandwidth for everybody. It can provide some bandwidth, which is why it's being sold now, but if you put millions of people on it, it wouldn't be functional. Starlink needs satellites in orbit which requires a lot of rocket launches. It also needs a lot of downlink facilities which scale arithmetically with the user count. To be most efficient, those downlink facilities will need to be geographically distributed, which means there will need to be enough cables to serve all the places with such facilities.

      In addition, there are problems with satellite which make it unusable in some areas. Areas where a receiver can't be positioned correctly, where that receiver is likely to be damaged by local conditions, or where the receiver will be occluded by clouds, storms, etc are all places where people will prefer the reliability of a cable if they can get it. It's also usually cheaper once it gets built--even with U.S. prices being higher than most other countries, Starlink contracts are quite a bit more so. A Starlink-style system does provide some advantages, but as much as Spacex's advertising copy might claim, it's not a panacea for all network-related problems.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        But it would be an option to connect remote communities.

        Why are we running 100km of fibre to this hamlet? Because we get a subsidy of $1M/km to lay fibre.

        Why not just pay for people's starlink subscription? Because paying for services for a citizen is communism.

        Why not put a starlink ground station in and share it ? Because some of the customers are first nations so that's federal, the school is municipal, and the police are state funded. You can't mix levels of government, that's what caused the civil war.

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          But it would be an option to connect remote communities.

          But not necessarily a good one.

          Why are we running 100km of fibre to this hamlet? Because we get a subsidy of $1M/km to lay fibre.

          Because then that hamlet might have a 144f or 288f cable occupying part of one duct. Fibre is very cheap compared to the cost of the duct. So it future proofs that small town USA so it's residents can get decent broadband, be able to work from home, provide infrastructure to support businesses that might want to enjoy the QoL etc etc.

          Why not just pay for people's starlink subscription? Because paying for services for a citizen is communism.

          Because StalinLink is communism as well? Why subsidise Starlink, and not scaleable fibre infrastructure? But Musk isn't (that) stupid, and most of his ventures are very reliant on direct or indirect subsidies. So far, Starlink's been throwing large amounts of money into the sky for an uncertain ROI. If there's lobbying for rural broadband subsidies, then it turns into more of a cash machine. But it also means those rural users would be stuck with a satellite broadband solution rather than a more flexible fibre-based one.

          US operators knew these announcements were coming, just not the size of the pork barrel. Trump had announced much the same infrastructure plans as Biden's just done. So now the lobbying ramps up for various interested parties to grab their slice of the pork.

  5. yoganmahew

    YMMV

    "equates fast internet access – broadband – with other utilities including water and power"

    So not available in Texas, comes with surge pricing, and poisoned in Flint?

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: YMMV

      Exactly like that.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: YMMV

      Well Tesxas is self-sufficient in Internet and the chances of anything happening that may require Internet from outside Texas is unlikely.

      On top of that, the Internet outside of Texas includes pictures of woman that are not fully covered from head to toe, contains insults to Jesus and other key biblical figures, doesn't accept that freedom was a hard won right only possible with guns, and doesn't accept the god-given right of the Rupublican party to rule, so any right-minded Texan would object to working with those northerners anyway.

  6. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Infrastructure

    We have unsafe water supplies, ruined highways, collapsing bridges and slow railways because nobody wants to spend money on existing infrastructure or maintenance.

    So the solution to this problem is to rebrand internet fibre and chip fabs as infrastructure ?

    1. Keven E

      Re: Infrastructure

      ".. including the more than 35 percent of rural Americans who lack access to broadband at minimally acceptable speeds."

      Even as access is ridiculously expensive... what, when it comes down to it, is an *acceptable speed?

      "The last year made painfully clear the cost of these disparities, particularly for students who struggled to connect while learning remotely, compounding learning loss and social isolation for those students."

      I'm sure all the streaming services will be very happy with the uptick in subscriptions.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Infrastructure

        They have been fighting about what speed people need for a long time and likely they won't end now. Given the use of videoconferencing, remote desktop, and multi-user homes all working or studying from home, I would define acceptable speeds as capable of running at least two videochats and one graphical remote session simultaneously. Choose the services you like best and we can measure exactly how much that is. Of course, for a larger family, that's not going to be enough, but that should be a minimum.

  7. HammerOn1024

    I am TIRED

    I am tired of paying for everyone's wet dream! Stop the madness!

  8. JBowler

    Let's hope there's more than just fibre...

    >The wording suggests that the federal government will seek to pay companies to lay fiber networks that internet service providers can then offer their services on top of, similar to the municipal networks that have been growing across the US.

    A few years ago Charter laid fiber down Highway 199 in Josephine County, Oregon all the way to Cave Junction(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cave_Junction,_Oregon), and maybe beyond. So there is a fiber feed to the Illinois Valley; an area of about 1000 square miles (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illinois_River_(Oregon)), with lowland areas (outside the Kalmiopsis Wilderness) of around 1/3 million acres.

    The valley population is under 10,000 people, approximately 4,000 home sites (perhaps less).

    I live maybe 1 3/4 miles (road distance) from highway 199 and the road serves as the sole access for nine permanently occupied home sites located after the first few hundred yards. So that's 1 house for every 300yds of fiber, buried in an unmaintained, gravel, road - this is not going to happen, pretty much all of us have given up on the flakey, over-priced, telephone service and just use cellphones (mobiles).

    So I use a local ISP who has wireless service covering much of the Illinois Valley. That provider keeps promising to upgrade my antenna to one capable of 5G and has a never-ending stream of reasons why it isn't happening. Google's "speed test" just told me I'm getting 1.5Mbps download and 0.4Mbps upload; if I complain it will go up, at one point after extensive complaining it was 3Mbps (what I'm paying for) with peaks at 5Mbps.

    The main part of the US is very different to anywhere else in the world; it has a massive surface area and, unlike Siberia, Alaska, Canada, Australia and the Antarctic, the population is scattered throughout that area despite the enormous concentrations in cities. Fiber does not and cannot work. The only way to solve the issue is wireless, be that 5G from ground based stations with fast, maybe fiber, interconnect or some insanely massive and very fragile near-earth based infrastructure.

    Some people understand this, but not the majority of the Americans who are in charge of the US.

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