James Breen: In 1996, Congress passed the Telecommunications Act with the goal of providing telephone service and high-speed internet access to the 125 million homes in the U.S. While it's taken nearly 25 years, the penetration of high-speed internet access is now close to 84%. However, there remains 20 million homes in the country that don't have access to affordable, reliable internet access. With the passing of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Rescue Plan, more money is being provided to fund and close that digital divide. Additionally, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Plan recently passed by the Senate will provide an additional $65 billion to continue that buildout to reach high-speed internet access to all 125 million U.S. homes.
What's become clear since the beginning of the pandemic is that high-speed internet access to all American households is necessary to provide e-commerce, e-learning, telehealth, online entertainment, as well as the ability for remote work. Over the course of the past 20 years, fiber, data centers, cell phone towers have all been built out in large quantity across the U.S. However, much of that has been around more urban and suburban areas. Hopefully going forward with the appropriations that have been passed, we're going to see a greater buildout of high-speed internet access into some of the more rural and economically challenged areas.
While a significant amount of infrastructure's been built out over the past 25 years in the form of fiber, data centers, and cell phone towers, it continually needs to be upgraded and updated so that the plumbing of the internet is sufficient enough to handle the more powerful devices and applications that are introduced each year.
We believe the passage of these Appropriations Acts, which will provide north of $100 billion in funding over the next several years, will benefit the internet infrastructure companies in our universe—whether it's fiber, data centers, or wireless providers—but also the general consumer population as it brings new and innovative services to a broader sector of the population.