Universal Internet Access - Another Biden Boondoggle

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The Biden Administration has released plans to provide high-speed internet access to everyone. That’s right — everyone. This is a bad idea, one that will certainly be inflated into another big-government boondoggle, but more to the point, it’s a bad idea specifically prohibited by the Constitution. But they always have a workaround, don’t they?

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President Biden announced on Monday apportioning plans for the $42 billion aimed at ensuring universal high-speed broadband within the US and its territories by 2030. The allocations follow a year-long FCC project that remapped the nation’s internet connectivity access, highlighting over 8.5 million homes, businesses, and other locales lacking broadband capabilities.

The Broadband Equity Access and Deployment Program, earmarked as part of the $1 trillion 2021 infrastructure funding bill, will provide each state with at least $107 million to expand broadband internet to their residents. More will be allocated to states such as Texas and California given their comparative population sizes. To qualify, each state is required to submit initial plans later this year for how they will use the money, after which time they will receive 20 percent of the funds. Reuters explains plans are expected to be finalized by 2025, after which time the remaining money will be disbursed.

This isn’t an uncommon tactic; the federal government tries to side-step the constitutional issues by block-granting money to the several states, with conditions. That’s an attempt to sidestep the fact that the Tenth Amendment specifically prohibits the federal government from doing this. It’s been going on forever with highway funds, and inevitably, those funds end up being a sword of Damocles held over the states’ heads to compel whatever Washington deems “proper” behavior. And one has to wonder, what will Washington consider “proper” behavior?

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President Biden has already started justifying the boondoggle.

“High-speed Internet isn’t a luxury anymore; it’s become an absolute necessity,” President Biden said during public remarks given on Monday, adding that around 24 million Americans lack high-speed internet, with millions more facing limited and unreliable service.

Here’s a question: Why is high-speed internet an “absolute necessity?” Is there an issue with people falling seriously ill or dying due to a lack of high-speed internet? Are they unable to use dial-up instead of broadband? Sure, dial-up speeds on the modern internet are an inconvenience, but only that; and it’s not the proper role of the federal government to subsidize people’s conveniences. The role of public assistance should quite literally be to keep people from dying of starvation or disease, not to guarantee them a fully modern, technologically up-to-date lifestyle (at taxpayer expense, of course).

Most of the country, of course, already has high-speed internet. Even here in Alaska, Elon Musk’s Starlink covers pretty much the whole vastness of the largest state, although the equipment and service are expensive. Here in the Susitna Valley, we have DSL service through the local phone co-op, which may not be cutting edge, but it’s perfectly adequate. So it’s unclear why the government needs to spend money on equipment; if Washington is determined to do this. Why not simply subsidize existing service?

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The answer? Because then there are no sweetheart deal contracts to hand out. The calls for more money have already begun:

Some state officials, however, estimate their pending grants are unlikely to fully cover the necessary internet infrastructure projects. Speaking to The Washington Post on Monday, an official for Washington state worried their roughly $1.2 billion is less than half of what would be needed to provide every resident with fiber internet lines. Meanwhile, Mississippi’s head of broadband expansion, Sally Doty, explained that the state’s nearly $1.2 billion for “large areas of unserved populations” such as the Mississippi Delta may not be enough. That said, Doty expects the state will “take what we have… [but] we know it is probably not enough.”

Ay, there’s the rub.

It always ends like this, doesn’t it? The initial boondoggle funds haven’t even been disbursed, and already the calls for more free federal bucks have begun. And it won’t end with Washington, or Mississippi. The floodgates are once more open. And this is the result:

The end result of Federal boondoggles. (Credit: US Debt Clock)

The one thing you can count on is that people will continue to vote for this kind of thing, which is why politicians continue doing it. It’s hard to take a stand against Santa Claus.

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