Can Hillary Clinton’s Broadband plan succeed?

Can Hillary Clinton’s Broadband plan succeed?

Improving broadband connectivity in America and addressing the digital divide between rural communities/inner cities and the rest of the country require some level of political intervention. Of the two major candidates running for president, Secretary Hillary Clinton has put forth a specific broadband plan to address the digital divide, boost economic growth and improve connectivity in schools. For such a plan to succeed, it will need the support of congress.

Secretary Clinton’s broadband plan include the following elements:

  • Connect 100% of America’s households to the Internet by the end of her first term in 2020. The connectivity plan will ensure that there is an option for affordable broadband meeting households’ minimum access speeds. This will be made possible by continued investment in Connect America Fund, Rural Utilities Service program, and Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP).
  • Create a new broadband grant program that leverages a proposed $25 Billion infrastructure bank. The bank will support an additional $225 billion in direct loans, loan guarantees and other forms of credit enhancements for projects by states and localities.
  • Reallocate spectrum for next generation mobile broadband technologies
  • Reduce regulation hurdles to the provisioning of broadband access by private entities

For more details on the broadband plan, visit the Clinton’s campaign website.

The impact of high speed broadband on economic growth cannot be overstated. In September 2015, the General Assembly of the United Nations agreed on new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) based on economic prosperity, social inclusion and environmental sustainability, known as the

‘2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’.  In a recent ITU/UNESCO report, it was reiterated that broadband will play a significant role in meeting the said SDGs.

Yet in the USA, the divide in broadband connectivity between rural communities/inner cities and the rest of the country threatens to leave a significant part of the population behind. According to the FCC’s 2016 Broadband Progress Report , 10% or 34 Million Americans do not have access to high speed broadband, defined as 25Mbps. These people mostly live in rural areas and the inner cities.  Also of concern is the fact that 41% of American schools fail to meet the FCC’s short term goal of 100Mbps per 1,000 students/staff.

These issues can easily be addressed by the Clinton broadband plan if it ever succeeds. The naysayers have been too quick to dismiss the plan as either too ambitious or too expensive.

But naysayers should be the least of Secretary Clinton’s concerns. If she is elected and must work with a Republican congress, her plan could be in jeopardy as most conservative Republicans prefer a more laissez-faire approach to development. In addition, it is likely that a hostile Republican congress can attempt to frustrate her by blocking many of her programs, just like the current congress has been doing to President Barak Obama.

The onus is on Secretary Clinton to build bridges across the turbulent political divide and push for her broadband plan and other programs to fruition.

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