Last month, the Washington Post featured a compelling article — “Schools are some families’ best hope for Internet access, but Virginia laws are getting in the way” — that showed how weedy broadband policy is worsening Virginia’s digital divide. This is absolutely true: the private sector has invested $500 billion over the past decade in broadband networks, but millions of Americans still lack broadband at all, much less ultra-fast fiber broadband.
But the good news is that building out fiber broadband to more Americans is not as expensive as many fear. A 2019 Fiber Broadband Association study found that we could reach 90% of U.S. households with all-fiber networks for only $70 billion.
To do this, we’ll need to use all the tools in our toolbox. The FCC, the Rural Utilities Service, and Congress should continue their robust programs to fund broadband in unconnected areas. States that haven’t already should create broadband grants and lower barriers to entry by electric coops, who will build fiber networks. And, we should permit municipalities to ensure their communities are served, including by building their own networks.
In this pandemic and beyond, access to high-speed broadband is essential. Let’s make it happen for Virginians and for all Americans.