TR Daily Federal Infrastructure Investment Moves to Front Burner
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Monday, April 29, 2019

Federal Infrastructure Investment Moves to Front Burner

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), ahead of a planned meeting with President Trump tomorrow to discuss infrastructure policy, wrote to the president today committing to work with Republicans on “a comprehensive infrastructure bill” and urging him to consider broadband and other non-transportation infrastructure as priorities.

“As you know, the issue of infrastructure is a bipartisan Congressional priority and we believe there are significant majorities in both the House and Senate to take action on the issue,” Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader Schumer wrote in their letter.

They urged President Trump “to consider the following priorities”: meeting infrastructure needs “with substantial, new and real revenue”; making the infrastructure package “a gamechanger for the American people” by going “beyond transportation and into broadband, water, energy, schools, housing and other initiatives”; and including “strong Buy America, labor, and women, veteran and minority-owned business protections in any package.”

In addition to the various sectors mentioned as priorities for infrastructure investment, they said, “We must also invest in resiliency and risk mitigation of our current infrastructure to deal with climate change.”

With regard to committing “new and real revenue,” the Democratic lawmakers said, “We look forward to hearing your ideas on how to pay for this package to ensure that it is big and bold enough to meet our country’s needs.”

Last year, the Trump administration proposed $200 billion in federal infrastructure funding that it said could be leveraged to produce $1.5 trillion in overall investment, when state, local, and private sector spending is included (TR Daily, Feb. 12, 2018). Senate and House Democrats responded with proposals for $1 trillion in funding from the federal budget for infrastructure, including $40 billion designated specifically for broadband in the Senate version (TR Daily, Feb. 8, 2018 and TR Daily, March 7, 2018). Neither the administration’s nor the Democrats’ proposals were enacted.

The administration’s proposed budget for FY 2020, which begins Oct. 1, would provide $200 billion for infrastructure priorities other than the long-term surface transportation reauthorization, which is addressed separately. Of the $200 billion, $10 billion would be set aside “to establish a Federal Capital Revolving Fund to support more cost-effective Federal investment in buildings and other property.” The administration emphasized water infrastructure as a target for the remaining $190 billion in infrastructure funding, but it said that it believes “a portion” of the remainder “should promote visionary projects and technologies that can strengthen our economic competitiveness, including 5G wireless communications, rural broadband, advanced manufacturing, and artificial intelligence” (TR Daily, March 11).

Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) also visited the infrastructure theme today in an address to the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

“One of the areas where I believe Congress can make a difference is by working to invest in twenty-first century infrastructure,” he said, adding, “This is an area where both parties have expressed an interest in working together, and I hope we can achieve that.”

“And we’re not just talking about roads and rails and bridges and ports,” Rep. Hoyer said. “We’re talking about rural broadband and America’s electrical grid — and about new technologies that help store energy. We need to build an electrical grid that is more reliable, efficient, and resilient and supports the generation and distribution of clean, renewable energy resources.”

Tech and telecom industry groups also weighed in on the issue today, writing to Speaker Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Schumer, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) to “strongly commend both Congress and the administration for their interest in rebuilding and modernizing American infrastructure.”

The industry groups, which included CTIA, the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), the Telecommunications Industry Association, and the Wireless Infrastructure Association, said, “In today’s rapidly-evolving digital world, infrastructure challenges cannot be solved with the solutions from yesterday. Indeed, technology companies have pioneered enhancements to infrastructure and transportation systems through the use of hardware, sensors, transponders, cameras, meters, monitors, control systems, optical fiber, digital design software and construction collaboration platforms, and other vanguard technologies that seek to address these challenges. By leveraging technology in the design, construction, and operation of infrastructure, the U.S. government can help spur economic growth and job creation, incentivize domestic investment, and meet the current and future needs of the American public.”

They recommended that Congress and the administration focus on five areas in their infrastructure modernization efforts: (1) enabling smart tech in infrastructure, including “smart, data-driven, standards-based Internet of Things (IoT) solutions”; (2) ensuring the security of digital infrastructure “from the outset” by requiring cybersecurity and cyber hygiene be considered in funding smart infrastructure projects and that resources “be made available to local and state entities to ensure that privacy and security are integrated into the foundation of any infrastructure solution”; (3) expanding broadband access nationwide through “technology-neutral legislation that will catalyze the expansion of broadband access through various mechanisms, including increasing incentives for broadband deployment,” accurate broadband maps, streamlined application and permitting processes, and “dig once” and “climb once” policies; (4) expediting deployment of licensed and unlicensed spectrum for 5G, including low-, mid-, and high-band spectrum, “as well as advancing innovations such as smart cities and communities and first responder networks, making “additional federal spectrum available for commercial use where practicable,” and reducing “barriers to the installation of small cells”; and (5) encouraging use of digital design and construction technologies, such as Building Information Modeling (BIM).

Also signing the letter to the congressional leaders were the BSA – the Software Alliance; the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA); the Consumer Technology Association; the Fiber Optic Sensing Association; the Intelligent Transportation Society of America; the Smart Cities Council; and TechNet.

MainStory: FederalNews Congress BroadbandDeployment Cybersecurity InternetIoT SpectrumAllocation WirelessDeployment

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