According to Hillary Clinton, high-speed internet connectivity is not a luxury; it is a necessity for “economic success and social mobility in a 21st century economy”. Clinton recognizes that rural areas like the Eastern Shore, still lack access to any fixed broadband provider– around 30% of households across America have not adopted broadband (with much higher levels in low-income communities).
Below is the Clinton plan to bulk up America’s digital infrastructure:
Close the Digital Divide: Hillary will finish the job of connecting America’s households to the internet, committing that by 2020, 100 percent of households in America will have the option of affordable broadband that delivers speeds sufficient to meet families’ needs. She will deliver on this goal with continue investments in the Connect America Fund, Rural Utilities Service program, and Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), and by directing federal agencies to consider the full range of technologies as potential recipients—i.e., fiber, fixed wireless, and satellite—while focusing on areas that lack any fixed broadband networks currently. Hillary also backs the FCC’s decision to extend Lifeline support to broadband, and she will work to connect this policy with community-based programs that help citizens with enrollment, offer digital literacy training and expand access to low-cost devices.
Launch a “Model Digital Communities” Grant Program: By leveraging the $25 billion Infrastructure Bank she plans to establish, Clinton aims to create a new competitive grant program to give cities, regions, and states incentives to create a “model digital community.” The end goal is to encourage localities to undertake actions that foster greater access to high-speed internet for their residents at affordable prices–whether through fiber, wireless, satellite, or other technologies. Regions would come forward with proposals, and grants would be awarded based on impact assessment.
Qualifying proposals might seek to:
Reduce regulatory barriers to the private provision of broadband services: Localities may seek to stimulate more investment by current or new service providers by streamlining permitting processes, allowing nondiscriminatory access to existing infrastructure such as conduits and poles, pursuing “climb once” policies to eliminate delays, or facilitating demand aggregation.
Coordinate the development of broadband infrastructure with other municipal services: Localities may seek to develop information and maps about existing infrastructure and pursue “dig once” policies, where the development of broadband infrastructure (i.e., dark fiber) is coordinated with the development and maintenance of other municipal infrastructure and joint trenching is enabled where appropriate.
Develop public-private partnerships for broadband: Hillary will explore ways that targeted uses of the Infrastructure Bank could favorably change the economics of private capital investment in existing or new broadband networks. This approach opens the door to upgrading networks, filling gaps in underserved areas, and new models of public-private partnerships, such as in Huntsville, Alabama and Westminster, Maryland.
Connect More Anchor Institutions to High-Speed Internet: To fully realize the benefits of the internet today, people need a “continuum of connectivity”—the ability to get online in their homes and offices, but also in schools, libraries, transit systems, and other public spaces. Over the last few years, the E-rate program, launched under President Bill Clinton and updated under President Obama, as well as the BTOP program, have brought ultra-speed, fiber-optic broadband to schools and libraries nationwide. Hillary will expand this concept to additional anchor institutions by investing new federal resources. This would enable recreation centers, public buildings like one-stop career centers, and transportation infrastructure such as train stations, airports, and mass transit systems, to access to high-speed internet and provide free WiFi to the public.
Deploy 5G Wireless and Next Generation Wireless Systems: America’s world-leading rollout of 4G wireless networks in the first half of this decade has been a success story for policy-makers, industry, and American consumers. The Obama Administration played a key role by repurposing spectrum and auctioning licenses, as well as by making new spectrum available for unlicensed technologies. Hillary will accelerate this progress and help foster the evolution to 5G, small cell solutions, and other next-generation systems that can deliver faster wireless connections. Widely deployed 5G networks, and new unlicensed and shared spectrum technologies, are essential platforms that will support the Internet of Things, smart factories, driverless cars, and much more—developments with enormous potential to create jobs and improve people’s lives.
Reallocate and Repurpose Spectrum for Next Generation Uses: enhance the efficient use of spectrum by accelerating the process of identifying underutilized bands, including ones now used by the federal government, that can become more valuable under revised regulatory regimes. She will focus on the full range of spectrum use policies—including new allocations for licensed mobile broadband, as well as unlicensed and shared spectrum approaches. She believes that creative uses of shared/non-exclusive uses of spectrum could unleash a new wave of innovation in wireless broadband technologies and the Internet of Things, much as WiFi did in the first generation of digital services.
Foster a Civic Internet of Things through Public Investments: dedicate federal research funding to test-bedding, field trials, and other public-private endeavors to speed the deployment of next generation wireless networks and a civic Internet of Things. Governments around the world are already investing billions of dollars in developing and commercializing 5G technologies—Clinton wants American companies to lead the world in wireless innovation. Her investments will aim at using advanced wireless and data innovation to drive social priorities in a range of areas, such as public safety, health care, environmental management, traffic congestion, and social welfare services.