Pew recently posted an article on federal and state legislation aimed at expanding broadband. Here’s the federal legislation…
Since January 2017, the beginning of the 115th Congress, lawmakers have addressed broadband in many bills. Here’s a breakdown of several notable measures by theme:
Funding and authorizing broadband expansion: The fiscal year 2018 spending bill that President Donald Trump signed in March included $600 million for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) “e-Connectivity Pilot Program,” which will support broadband projects in rural areas. The spending law also gives the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) $7.5 million to work with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to enhance the national broadband map, which depicts broadband availability and speed across the country.
Legislation proposed for this fiscal year would provide more funds for USDA’s e-Connectivity Pilot Program: $550 million in the House-passed version of the Department of Agriculture appropriations bill and $425 million in the Senate-passed version. Pending legislation would also maintain funding for NTIA’s map modernization effort.
The 2018 farm bill—legislation authorizing federal agriculture and rural development programs—has not yet been signed into law, but the House- and Senate-passed versions would authorize new USDA grants for rural broadband deployment projects. The Senate version also includes up to $50 million for the existing Community Connect grant program.
Bolstering research: The fiscal 2018 spending law also includes measures to bolster federal government research on broadband connectivity. It requires the FCC to issue a report to Congress on the status of broadband availability to military veterans who are low-income or live in rural areas. It also requires the FCC to establish a methodology for consistently collecting wireless coverage data about speed and reliability. And the fiscal year 2019 John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act, which the president signed in August, requires the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study evaluating the impact of broadband speed and price on small businesses. Another measure, which has not become law, would require the Bureau of Economic Analysis to assess, analyze, and submit a biennial report to Congress regarding the effects of broadband deployment and adoption on the U.S. economy.
Streamlining federal broadband policymaking efforts: Congress is considering measures that would improve the efficiency and execution of federal efforts to expand broadband connectivity. The proposed Senate and House farm bills establish a task force within the FCC for meeting the connectivity and technology needs of precision agriculture in the U.S. The House bill also establishes minimal acceptable service standards for rural projects seeking funding from the USDA. Other bills streamline the permitting process for broadband deployment projects; establish an Office of Rural Broadband within the FCC to bolster its coordination with other federal agencies; and create an Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth within NTIA to develop training and guidance to promote broadband development in underserved communities.
In addition to these themes, Congress is also considering measures to expand access in tribal areas and bring or restore broadband to disaster-stricken areas.
They track state legislation by looking at which states provide public funding for broadband, regulatory reform (tax breaks, dig once, et al) and research. From the Minnesota perspective we legiaslation place, such as the statutory speed goals, and we have research in the form of mapping. We have the Office of Broadband Development, which is well regarded. We have the Broadband Task Force, but it sunsets after this year. And in the past we have had state grant funding for broadband, but last year the funding didn’t pass. It will be interesting to see what the new Governor and Legislators due with the current Task Force’s recommendations, which includes an extension for the Task Force and continued funding.