Billions for broadband reignites public, private tension

Fierce jockeying is underway as legacy providers seek to secure their incumbent advantage while backers of publicly funded community broadband push to disperse the funds broadly.
FILE – Travis Sheetz, a worker with the Mason County (Wash.) Public Utility District, installs fiber optic cable on a utility pole, Aug. 4, 2021, near Belfair, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, file)

The prospect of tens-of-billions in federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law dollars flowing to states to expand broadband access is reviving an old battle over public versus private internet providers.

The Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Program, also known as BEAD, aims to close the so-called digital divide and bring high-speed internet service to the estimated 18 to 42 million Americans who are still without access.

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