Biden Cuts $35 Billion From New Broadband Plan To Appease The GOP

from the good-luck-with-all-that dept

As we’ve been noting, there’s a long runway between the Biden Administration’s vague but promising broadband plan and actual implementation. And there’s millions of dollars and literally thousands of lobbyists hard at work trying to make sure that the plan, whatever it winds up looking like, doesn’t disrupt the comfortable, status quo that is the regionally-monopolized and dysfunctional US broadband market.

I’ve already seen some evidence said lobbyists have had some success weakening plan language that would limit the amount of “overbuilding” (read: competition) to existing monopolized markets. 83 million Americans live under a broadband monopoly, and incumbent giants AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast want any and all spending focused exclusively on giving them subsidies for unserved areas, instead of building out vibrant competition in their existing footprints.

Activists are also growing annoyed with the fact that the Biden administration still hasn’t fully staffed the FCC and appointed a new permanent boss, without which the agency can’t reverse the net neutrality repeal, or most of the Trump FCC’s butchering of the agency’s consumer protection authority. Giving the Canadian Ambassadorship to a a top Comcast lobbyist appears to be happening at a quicker cadence.

Meanwhile, the Biden plan overall is already starting to shrink as his administration tries to get the 10 GOP voted needed to nab a 60 vote majority. As a result, the $100 billion plan is officially now a $65 billion plan, and shrinking:

“The White House informed Republicans of Biden’s willingness to cut $35 billion from his broadband proposal in a memo on Friday. “We believe we can still achieve universal access to affordable high-speed Internet at your lower funding level, though it will take longer,” the White House told Republicans, according to NPR. “Any funding agreement would need to be paired with reforms to ensure these investments create good jobs, promote greater competition, and close the digital divide.”

Even with cuts there’s still no evidence that the GOP is going to get on board.

While there are plenty of Democrats in close allegiance to the telecom sector, the modern GOP broadband platform as a whole is utterly indistinguishable from the goals of AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast in every respect. They oppose any meaningful oversight (be it net neutrality or privacy), oppose voter-approved community broadband, support absolutely every merger that comes down the road regardless of harm, and despite talking a lot about their breathless dedication to closing the digital divide, can rarely even admit that a lack of broadband competition and high consumer prices are real problems.

It’s very unlikely that a party whose positions are utterly indistinguishable from telecom monopolists are going to bend on any of this, something Senator Ed Markey has been quick to make clear:

“Despite President Biden?s efforts to engage with Republicans, they have shown no willingness whatsoever to negotiate in good faith with Democrats to confront the intersecting crises we face. We need to make the investments now to help our country and communities rebuild and recover, as well to ensure that we never return to the status quo that left too many Americans behind and created the worsening climate crisis. Now is the time to go big, to go bold, and to go fast. This is not the time for half-measures, half-spending or foot-dragging.”

Despite having broad public support (58% of voters support passing the entire infrastructure bill without GOP support), it seems extremely unlikely a broadband bill gets the necessary 60 votes unless it’s butchered to the point of uselessness, which under-delivers and undermines the Democrat chances of re-election in 2022 and 2024 (another major reason for GOP opposition). That leaves killing the filibuster, or shoveling an infrastructure bill through via reconciliation rules, the former of which seems unlikely, and the latter of which is far from a given.

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Comments on “Biden Cuts $35 Billion From New Broadband Plan To Appease The GOP”

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bobob says:

Maybe by caving in and STILL being obstructed by the gop, Biden and Manchin will finally figure out the notion of a bipartisan anything is is just bullshit. As McConnel said when Obama was president, passing any bill that makes the president look good does nothing to help the gop.

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David says:

Re: Re: Re:

It’s been a long time since Democrats didn’t get the popular vote. "One man, one vote" is not how things work in the U.S. It’s been set up from the start to boost votes from regions with sparse population, and mostly Republicans have been tilting the tables further since then by gerrymandering and other trickery.

If their current level of rigging of democratic principles is not sufficient for giving them rule of the land and courts, they just need to rig the system more. And more and more and more. To some degree, it is the Founding Father’s fault for starting out with a rigged system and thus encouraging gaming it. Some amendments tried moving into more democratic structures, but they cannot change the underlying spirit.

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David says:

Re: Re:

why did biden lift a finger for a group that will NEVER support any part of his agenda?

Because he works on the slimmest of majorities and needs swing voters both in his caucus and in narrow races leading to his caucus to swing the right way. Showing that the Republicans could be participating if they only wanted to makes it more likely for swing voters to have at least some impact to register and vote Democratic since then they get to pick their actually policy-participating candidates in the primaries.

Of course, getting more conservative Democratic candidates as a result of conservative voters giving up on Republicans means that while the formal majorities become more comfortable, the in-party compromises necessary for policy-making become larger.

It’s a mixed blessing with regard to being able to work on a unified agenda, but if the alternative is to not being able to work at all, it’s an improvement. Either way, the long-term goal is to get more adults back into politics. Not an easy target.

Anonymous Coward says:

shameful! yet again, only us, the consumers, will suffer, just as we always do!
there’s still been absolutely no evidence of wrong-doing by Huawei.Trump’s ridiculous decision to kick them out to pasture has delayed the implementation of true 5G wirelss Internet. that was done to keep his pals happy in the various top 4 ISPs, if not others as well. who suffers, as always? the USA public who have to continue paying through the nose and the ass, at the same time, for an absolutely piss poor service! and all Biden is doing is let this crock of crap keep running, as is, to keep those who benefit financially from it. so much for politicians who actually give a fuck about those who voted them into the positions they’re in! they actually dont give a flyin’ fuck about anything except how much they can milk out of the position they have! disgraceful!!

EGF Tech Man (profile) says:

Debate and Compromise

The system works on debate and compromise. This is a compromise made this time. Politics works when everyone leaves the room unhappy 🙂

This does show the need for a third major, moderate party to emerge and upset the partisan bickering…Libertarians and Greens traditionally are not moderate, but if they were included in major candidate debates now, we might find they are center (or at least the ones that will focus on policy and not taking down the "other" party) and the Ds & Rs are the extremes.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Debate and Compromise

Unfortunately, the GOP are not interested in compromise – they just want to win.. all the time… Even if it makes people’s lives worse or messes with constitutional rights, they have to ‘Own the Libs'(TM).

It has been really sad to see US politics descend into hard nosed bickering over the last 25 years. OK, with a 2 party system there will always be some level of digging your heels in but the current lot have dug trenches and set up razor wire!

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David says:

Re: Re: Debate and Compromise

I think to a large degree McConnell is to blame: he has specialised on inflating the power and influence of the mandate share voters are willing to hand to the Republican Party, and he constructs rationales around what he is going to do anyway (like blocking the compromise candidate Garland for the Supreme Court for about a year while pushing through Coney Barret in a few weeks, with the respective arguments for doing what he does being utterly incompatible.

The problem is that McConnell is an organiser, not a leader. He has no convictions of his own. And his success at "owning the libs" has become prominent enough that the Republican Party stopped having any other goals. Trump was the perfect representative leader for that purpose: Trump cares about winning over his opponents more than figuring out what his opponents actually want and looking for common ground.

The reason Republicans have reverted to sucking up to Trump is that they have no coherent policy ideas based on a careful weighing of options and navigating a reasonable course balancing conflicting goals. So instead of trying to find a representative leader for their ideas, they revert to worshipping a clueless but grandiose idiot. And McConnell will facilitate him if the party does not come up with anything better. Because that is McConnell’s specialty: selling crap. And he’d rather sell crap than anything worthwhile because the latter does not highlight his skills.

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David says:

Re: Re: Re: Debate and Compromise

Mitch: I want the cake!

Chuck: That’s not fair! I want half.

Papa Joe: Let’s compromise. Chuck gets a quarter.

Mitch: No, I want it all. I’ll rather cry until it’s stale before Chuck gets any.

Papa Joe: But Mitch, that’s not reasonable.

Mitch: Waaaaaaaaaaaah!

Cake goes stale.

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Thad (profile) says:

Re: Re:

As long as the filibuster is a thing, in its current form, nothing is going to get done.

That depends on whether it’s eligible for budget reconciliation. I think in this case it might be.

And they can’t get rid of the filibuster with republicans Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema standing in the way. 🙁

Manchin’s been deliberately cagey in his choice of words; he’s said he doesn’t support eliminating the filibuster but has left the door open to restoring the standing filibuster. Which I think would be good enough.

Anyone who says they know how Manchin and Sinema will ultimately come down on filibuster reform is lying. They’re playing up this will they/won’t they game because they like the attention and the power. But it only works because we don’t know for sure what they’ll do in the end.

David says:

Re: Re: Re:

Anyone who says they know how Manchin and Sinema will ultimately come down on filibuster reform is lying. They’re playing up this will they/won’t they game because they like the attention and the power.

It’s more like it’s going to come back and bite the Democrats. They don’t want to see it go without a serious effort to get stuff to work with it in place.

Problem is that the Republicans are not on board with getting anything done. Latest example is the 1/06 commission: their negotiator gets a deal giving them equal participation in everything, and then they can it.

So in a way, it is a show for the voters. Everyone knows that while the Republicans let Trump and McConnell call the game, nothing will get done. And they have sacked all other callers.

So it’s necessary to show voters that if they want to get anything sane done at all, voting Republican is not a choice. Nor is abstaining to vote. Because this is no longer about a "balance of power" rather than about ability to govern at all.

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Anonymous Coward says:

This has been the playbook back in the Obama era. The GOP will not take yes for an answer. They will bicker about costs, delay, put obstacles in the way, eating up time but they will not negotiate in good faith. After getting a bill or an agreement they claim they can live with, the GOP will in the end vote against what they agreed to in negotiations. This isn’t about compromise. It’s about not helping the other side in any manner. McConnell has already stated that he has no desire to work with the other side in the manner of his announcement.

This means these four years will be like the Obama years if something doesn’t change. It’s gridlock replay all over again. Both political parties are so busy playing politics, they can’t govern. Our infrastructure shows the results of decades of gridlock. Sadly it’s only one point of many and we the people as well as the country are the ones paying for it.

That One Guy (profile) says:

'Just a few more fingers and I'm sure they'll come around.'

Trying to appease republicans is like thinking that if you let the rabid dog who’s already ripped off three of your fingers with no sign of stopping just have your thumb too maybe it’ll stop trying to maim you. They’ve made clear before that the only ‘compromise’ that they support is one where they get everything they want and are willing to stonewall anything less and to hell with the consequences, it is well past time for the democrats to stop pretending that if they’re only nicer the republicans will come to the table to discuss things in good faith.

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