Please enter a valid search term.

An Increased Federal Focus on Ubiquitous Broadband

Washington, D.C. (June 14, 2019) -  This quarter has seen a flurry of broadband legislation and programs aimed at increasing high-speed internet access and adoption across the country. Our policy team tracks these developments closely as we work to get broadband deployed in even the most unserved of communities. Below are just a few of the items we are following:

Broadband Data and Improvement Act of 2019
In May, Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), along with a bipartisan group of legislators including Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Jerry Moran (R-KS), introduced the Broadband Data and Improvement Act of 2019.

The act aims to improve broadband data collection, mapping, and validation to support the effective deployment of broadband services. The bill requires broadband providers to report data at a more granular level in order to accurately reflect locations they actually serve. This would create a more useful and accurate National Broadband Map, while ensuring the data is challenged, validated, and refined.

The Broadband Data and Improvement Act of 2019 was referred last month to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

Additionally, a companion bill in the House was filed in June by Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ). Co-sponsors include Representatives G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Abby Finkenauer (D-IA), Ann Kuster (D-NH), Roger Marshall (R-KS), David McKinley (R-WV), Paul Tonko (D-NY), and Rob Wittman (R-VA) indicating another bipartisan base of support.

Broadband DATA Act
Just this week, Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), along with Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), John Thune (R-SD), and Gary Peters (D-MI), introduced the Broadband DATA Act. The act “would require the FCC to issue rules relating to the collection of data with respect to the availability of broadband services and for other purposes.”

The bill would require the FCC to collect granular service availability data; require strong parameters for data collected from mobile broadband providers to ensure accuracy; ask the FCC to consider whether to collect verified third party coverage data; and create a challenge process to the FCC data/maps.

The legislation has been referred to the Senate Commerce Committee, of which Senator Wicker serves as chairman.

The Digital Equity Act of 2019
This Democrat-sponsored legislation was introduced in the U.S. Senate in April by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and a slate of Senate Democrat co-sponsors.

The Digital Equity Act of 2019 establishes two grant programs to be administered by NTIA to promote digital equity nationwide; creates an annual $120 million formula grant program to fund the creation and implementation of comprehensive digital equity plans in every state; and creates an annual $120 million competitive grant program to support digital equity projects undertaken by individual groups, coalitions, and/or communities of interest.

The Digital Equity Act of 2019 was most recently referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation in the Senate.

LIFT America Act
The LIFT America Act is the Democrat-sponsored infrastructure package legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives, sponsored by Senator Frank Pallone (D-NJ). It calls for $40 billion for broadband deployment aimed at bringing access to 98% of the country.

Additionally, the legislation calls for $12 billion in grants for the implementation of Next Generation 9-1-1 services and $5 billion in federal funding for low-interest financing of broadband infrastructure deployment.

Most recently, the Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing on May 22 to discuss the legislation.

USDA ReConnect Program
The USDA’s ReConnect Program is currently underway to invest $1.025 billion over two years for the ReConnect Program.

Congress also allocated $350 million over five years for USDA’s other telecom-related loan and grant programs, which include Community Connect Grants, Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grants, Rural Broadband Access Loans and Loan Guarantees, and Telecommunications Infrastructure Loans and Guarantees.

You can find the latest Connected Nation policy briefs and research items on the CN Policy Page.