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Broadband Internet service is something no business of any size can do without.

It's pretty important to average Americans as well.

But even today in the country many are forced to make do with much slower connections — or none at all. Reliable, high-speed connections just aren't available where they live.

The Federal Communications Commission estimates that about 25 million Americans lack reliable broadband Internet access. Another 14 million have no access at all.

The FCC researchers base their estimate on blocks of U.S. Census Bureau data, not by individual households, so the actual number could be much higher. Microsoft, for example, estimated in 2019 that more than 150 million Americans did not have reliable broadband access.

The lack of broadband means some communities aren't in the running for economic development and the jobs that come with it. It also means some folks have a lesser quality of life than their fellow Americans enjoy.

Right now — somewhat lost in the publicity surrounding a possible second COVID-19 stimulus package — there are competing bills in the House and Senate to provide broadband access nationwide. The Democrats in the House want $100 billion, $80 billion for a "universal fiber broadband plan" to serve the U.S. and $20 billion to improve remote learning capabilities and other projects.

The Republicans in the Senate propose a much smaller $6 billion broadband plan as well as another lessening regulations on existing Internet service providers.

What the future holds for such legislation is up in the air. But it's important, so both Democrats and Republicans should work hard on reaching a compromise. What form that might take we can't say. But a combination of funding and less regulation, and perhaps a government-business partnership, could be the solution as long as it ensures any broadband is affordable to average families. Tax dollars should not be used to enrich corporations at the expense of taxpayers.

Hopefully, this important legislation doesn't get pushed aside and forgotten. High-speed nationwide Internet access is a major key to our economic future.

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