Protecting Broadband Freedom: A Call for Light-Handed Regulation

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) marked a significant change in tactics for bridging the digital divide—the gap between broadband haves and have-nots—by ushering in the federal Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program. Intended to bring the digital age into unserved and underserved areas, the BEAD program is armed with $42.45 billion allocated for planning, infrastructure deployment, and adoption programs across the nation. These funds go to all 50 states and various territories under the oversight of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

BEAD is a significant departure in that heretofore, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was the primary federal agency tasked with developing broadband access. The FCC relied on funding from a levy on interstate telecommunications, limiting its budget.

There is a sense that, with light-handed regulation at most, the $42.45 billion subsidy will attract enough private capital to connect the approximately 24 million Americans lacking broadband access. But the billions of taxpayer dollars, while substantial, may be insufficient if the NTIA and states adopt heavy-handed regulations that add costs and decrease efficiency. Unfortunately, that is happening.

Read Dr. Jamison’s complete blog post at AEI.