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A Rural-Urban Broadband Divide, but Not the One You Think Of

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The Flores family online outside their apartment in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx, in New York City.

About 13.6 million urban U.S. households do not have a broadband connection.

Credit: Desiree Rios for The New York Times

Whom should the government help get superfast internet access?

The question is not addressed directly in President Biden's multibillion-dollar infrastructure plan, which devotes tens of billions of dollars to expanding access to broadband but does not provide much detail about how the money will be spent.

But veterans of the nation's decade-long efforts to extend the nation's broadband footprint worry that the new plan carries the same bias of its predecessors: Billions will be spent to extend the internet infrastructure to the farthest reaches of rural America, where few people live, and little will be devoted to connecting millions of urban families who live in areas with high-speed service that they cannot afford.

"From an economic and society perspective, the most important thing to do is to get online everybody who wants to be online," said Blair Levin, who oversaw a broadband project at the Federal Communications Commission during the Obama administration and is now a fellow at the Brookings Institution. "From a political perspective, the biggest political capital is behind accelerating deployment where there is none, which means in rural areas."

From The New York Times
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