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Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The infrastructure bill heading to President Biden's desk includes $65 billion to improve high-speed internet access and affordability.

Why it matters: The pandemic proved the necessity of connectivity to participate in daily American life, and Biden's administration acknowledged that by including this funding in the infrastructure package.

By the numbers: The funding is aimed towards building high-speed internet networks, helping low-income families pay for service and digital equity programs.

  • $42.45 billion in grants to states for broadband projects, which can range from network deployment to data collection to help determine areas that lack service.
  • $14.2 billion to provide a $30-a-month voucher to low-income Americans to pay for internet service. It will replace the current $50-a-month Emergency Broadband Benefit program, offering less money monthly, but increasing the number of those eligible.
  • $2.75 billion for digital inclusion and equity projects, such as improving digital literacy or online skills for seniors.
  • $2 billion each for a rural broadband construction program called ReConnect, run by USDA, and to the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program run by the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).
  • $1 billion to build so-called "middle mile" infrastructure to connect local providers to larger internet access points.
  • $600 million for private activity bonds to finance broadband deployment projects in rural areas.

Between the lines: Early fears from cable and telecom companies that Biden's broadband plan would lead to government-backed competitors in their service footprints or price regulation went unrealized.

  • "It recognizes the private model of broadband deployment in the United States, with targeted public support in unserved or hard to reach communities, is the key to achieving 100% connectivity," USTelecom CEO Jonathan Spalter said in a statement.

The intrigue: The power player on broadband funding will be the Commerce Department because its telecom division has a key oversight role in how the $42.45 billion in state funding will be spent.

  • Most importantly, the head of NTIA will be tasked with approving plans for the broadband grants, including reviewing low-cost service options providers will be required to offer in order to receive funding.
  • Biden recently nominated Alan Davidson to lead NTIA, and he will likely face questions about administering this funding as the Senate confirmation process proceeds.

What to watch: The infrastructure bill also highlights funding for WiFi networks in apartment buildings.

  • Nonprofit EducationSuperHighway recently launched a project proposing such networks as one solution to addressing the broadband affordability gap.

What's next: Biden's social spending bill, the Build Back Better Act, includes increased funding for Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission antitrust enforcement, more money for distance learning and $500 million to create a privacy bureau within the FTC.

  • The House is expected to take up a vote on the bill the week of Nov. 15.

Go deeper

Borrow WiFi hotspots for free through Des Moines Public Library

Illustration: Axios Visuals

Des Moines Public Library is offering WiFi hotspots to families that don't currently have high-speed internet to check out for free.

Why it matters: Lack of internet access is among “the most glaring equity issues in our society, ” according to a special report by Education Week.

  • Low-income households, people of color and rural residents are disproportionately affected.

Mayor's $1 billion capital budget proposal

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Investments in public safety, affordable housing and mentorship programs help make up Mayor Andrew Ginther's 2022 operating budget proposal, which would stand as the largest budget in city history.

  • City Council is hosting a slate of meetings over the coming days to hear public comment on the comprehensive budget plan and consider changes.
  • A final vote is expected early next year.
Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus variant surveillance varies widely by state — Omicron cases confirmed in 5 U.S. states America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate — Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come.
  4. World: WHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming — Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

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