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Thursday, February 25, 2021

Municipal broadband would be a key component of a new F.C.C. plan aimed at expanding access to high-speed Internet, officials say

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“High-speed, affordable Internet is important to America’s future,” said Federico Peña, former mayor of the nation’s largest city, who is advising the agency on its broadband proposal. “It doesn’t make any sense to leave millions of Americans in the lurch.”

F.C.C. officials estimate that 20 percent of American households are “under-served” by broadband. That means they do not receive an adequate percentage of the speed that federal officials recommend for high-speed Internet.

The new subsidy would be structured to help at least 50 million Americans who live in designated areas: 40 million people who live in unserved areas, 10 million in underserved areas and 5 million in primary or transitional areas, according to the broadband plan.

As in the last pilot program, those areas, according to the report, would be defined by three federal agencies: the F.C.C., the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Justice Department’s Public Safety Telecommunications Bureau.

The F.C.C. still is working on details of how to disburse the subsidy, but it is likely that the money would be paid out gradually, over a decade or more, according to two telecommunications lobbyists briefed on the proposal.

“It makes sense to do so in this kind of a pilot,” said one of the lobbyists, who asked not to be identified because the discussions were private. “It’s a lot easier if the communities know how to manage it.”

The F.C.C. says the program was developed after consulting with more than 100 public and private stakeholders, including stakeholders from across the political spectrum.

Officials said the plan is to build out broadband in low-income areas. Last year, the F.C.C. waived government rules to allow companies to provide high-speed Internet to up to 40,000 low-income households at no cost.

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