TR Daily BIF Bill Calls for Low-Cost Broadband Option, End to Digital Redlining
Wednesday, July 28, 2021

BIF Bill Calls for Low-Cost Broadband Option, End to Digital Redlining

The White House and the bipartisan group of senators who have been working to refine the bipartisan infrastructure framework (BIF) unveiled last month (TR Daily, June 24) today announced a final agreement on the details of the $550 billion package that, as previously announced, includes $65 billion for broadband deployment which the White House said would ensure "every American has access to reliable high-speed Internet."

The White House said that the agreement would require recipients of the broadband funding "to offer a low-cost affordable plan, by creating price transparency and helping families comparison shop, and by boosting competition in areas where existing providers aren’t providing adequate service."

Other broadband provisions beyond the $65 billion include "help[ing] close the digital divide by passing the Digital Equity Act, ending digital redlining, creating a permanent program to help more low-income households access the internet, and establishing a new program to help low-income households obtain the devices required to access the internet."

The Digital Equity Act, proposed by Reps. Jerry McNerney (D., Calif.) and Yvette Clarke (D., N.Y.), would establish adoption and digital literacy grant programs (TR Daily, June 9).

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), who had unsuccessfully sought Senate approval last week to move a place-holder bill toward the floor before members knew the details of the expected bipartisan bill (TR Daily, July 21), had said in a floor statement earlier today before the announcement of the agreement that "[m]embers should be prepared to vote again, on cloture, on the motion to proceed to the bipartisan infrastructure bill as early as tonight."

He carried through on that warning by seeking reconsideration of the cloture motion on the placeholder House infrastructure bill (HR 3684) this evening. The roll-call vote was ongoing at TR Daily’s news deadline.

In a research note, New Street Research Advisor Blair Levin said that the proposal to fund the infrastructure package in part with $20 billion in future spectrum auction revenues "is a win for the wireless industry as it will put pressure on the Administration to put pressure on the Department of Defense to free up more mid-band spectrum. And it will put pressure on the FCC to allocate spectrum through exclusive licensing, which raises more money than shared or unlicensed allocations."

In a statement, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R., W.Va.), who had been involved in infrastructure talks with the White House before the administration called them to a halt in favor of the bipartisan group, said, among other things, that she is "glad to see this package include significant funding to help fix the digital divide, something that has been a top priority for me since day one. After reviewing some of the legislative text of the bipartisan infrastructure package and ensuring West Virginia’s and the nation’s core infrastructure needs will be addressed, I plan to support the procedural vote to move this package forward."

Incompas Chief Executive Officer Chip Pickering said, "I want to applaud Senator [Rob] Portman [R., Ohio] for leading this bipartisan effort, and Senators [Angus] King [I., Maine] and [Michael] Bennet [D., Colo.] for demanding that tax dollars get spent on faster future-proof broadband that will help all Americans, expand 5G and enable small businesses to compete with the rest of the world."

Mignon Clyburn, co-chair of Incompas’s BroadLand campaign, said, "The Senate bipartisan compromise is a first step toward building broadband equality, but more will need to be done to close the digital divide and bring competition, lower prices and faster speeds to each and every American. Internet for all must be our goal, and competition our guide as we seek permanent solutions to access and affordability."

Andy Halataei, executive vice president-government affairs at the Information Technology Industry Council, said, "We’re encouraged by this bipartisan progress and look forward to learning more about the details of the deal, specifically efforts to close the digital divide and expand internet access. Our industry will continue to work with our partners in the administration and Congress to advance these critical efforts." —Lynn Stanton, [email protected]

MainStory: FederalNews Congress BroadbandDeployment

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