Aug. 10, 2021
Today, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a $1.2 trillion package that includes $65 billion for broadband infrastructure and affordability. OTI has repeatedly urged Congress to pass legislation to make internet service more accessible and affordable, following three Cost of Connectivity studies that found U.S. internet prices are among the world’s highest, particularly in rural and Tribal communities. The bill requires ISPs to adopt a “broadband nutrition label,” an idea first proposed by OTI in 2009. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) briefly created a voluntary version of the label in 2016, which was abandoned under President Trump:
The following statement can be attributed to Joshua Stager, deputy director for broadband and competition policy at New America’s Open Technology Institute:
“After years of inaction, we welcome today’s progress. This bill is a step in the right direction, as it reflects a holistic understanding of the digital divide by investing in broadband access, affordability, and equity. The creation of the Affordable Connectivity Program—an expansion of the Emergency Broadband Benefit—is an especially significant achievement for utility justice.
“We are pleased to see price transparency in the bill, including the broadband nutrition label that OTI first proposed in 2009. Internet pricing is far too opaque, rife with hidden fees and confusing terms. A truth-in-billing label will help consumers comparison shop, hold their providers accountable, and better understand what they’re paying for.
“The bill left much on the table, including necessary steps to lower broadband prices and tackle the oligopoly power of Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, and Charter. President Biden’s recent executive order provided a good blueprint for how to address these competition problems, which Congress would be wise to follow.
“Moreover, today’s bill underscores the importance of the FCC and NTIA. Virtually every aspect of the bill’s broadband section delegates important details to these agencies—yet both lack permanent appointees. President Biden needs to fill these vacancies immediately so both agencies are at full capacity if and when the House passes this infrastructure bill.”