U.S. broadband is getting an increase in public funding, the largest ever in broadband history, through the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program.
As stated by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration:
“The Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Programs provides $42.45 billion to expand high-speed internet access by funding planning, infrastructure deployment, and adoption programs in all 50 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.”
Originally, the BEAD program was intended to help improve local, public networks such as non-profits, co-operatives, and other entities affiliated with local governments. This program was supposed to help level the playing field for smaller companies against giant providers. But is that really the case as the plan moves forward?
Once again, the larger providers are trying to snuff out any chance of competition with smaller or new companies. They benefit from a lack of options and some even are one of possibly two providers available in many areas.
Where the program money goes is essentially left up to the states and territories. Meaning, smaller companies have the right to file for grant money but can be denied in favor of larger, already well-established providers. The Verge reports “In nearly one-third of the U.S., that decision may have already been made,” stating 16 states already have laws protecting major telecom companies.
According to Karl Bode, “This is a historic infusion of broadband subsidies that will absolutely result in a lot of amazing progress. At the same time, there’s just endless potential for fraud and misuse of funding, given monopoly telecom’s influence on the legislative process.”
Since 2002, companies such as Comcast, AT&T, Cox, Lumen, and Verizon already have deals with lobbyists to protect their stake in the internet industry. Without funding, the smaller companies cannot compete with the tele-giants, which is exactly what the big telecom companies want. Eliminating any chance of receiving funding while shifting millions to aid the current tele-giants further erases any hope of competing in an essentially sealed market.
If a smaller company does try to get its foot in the industry, major telecom companies can simply outprice them, temporarily enticing customers to join their own service with limited price cuts before driving the prices back up after eliminating the competition.