The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was rolled out by the leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives on January 15, 2009. Contained in this large bill designed to stimulate the U.S. economy were $6 billion in funding for broadband. Of that $6 billion, $5.65 billion was set aside for broadband infrastructure grants targeted to unserved and underserved areas. $350 million was designated for the State Broadband Data and Development Grant Program (which was created by P.L. 110-385 – the Broadband Data Improvement Act) and the creation of a national broadband inventory map.
On Thursday, January 22, 2009, the House Energy & Commerce Committee marked-up the health, energy and broadband related parts of the proposed stimulus bill. In addition to an amendment offered by Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) that amended the broadband infrastructure portion of the broadband package, the Committee considered the following amendments:
- Amendment offered by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) tying the infrastructure grants to interoperable communications for first-responders. Accepted by voice vote.
- Amendment offered by Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO) requiring that infrastructure funding be used in unserved areas before being used in underserved areas. Failed by a vote of 23 to 33.
- Amendment offered by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) requiring that, after the NTIA has made public a national broadband inventory map, the FCC revisit upcoming definitions of “unserved area” and “underserved area.” Accepted by voice vote.
- Amendment offered by Committee Ranking Member Joe Barton (R-TX) prohibiting infrastructure grant funding from going to any entity that receives funds from the Universal Service Fund. Failed by voice vote.
- Amendment offered by Rep. Steve Buyer (R-IN) requiring the NTIA to review percentage allocations for the grant program not less than 3 months after it makes public a national broadband inventory map. Failed by a vote of 21 to 33.
- Amendment offered by Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) requiring that the grant infrastructure program consider whether or not the entities eligible to receive grant funds are socially and economically disadvantaged small business concerns. Agreed to by voice vote.
U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) has announced that the plans to consider the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act on the House floor on Wednesday, January 28, 2009.
Connected Nation will provide more updates on this important broadband activity as it becomes available.
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