Budget Bill Includes Rural Broadband Bucks

The budget bill that passed in the wee hours of Friday morning (Feb. 9) included $20 billion for infrastructure initiatives, at least some of which will go to broadband buildouts.

The money is divided into two tranches, $10 billion for FY18 and $10 billion for FY 2019, according to House Energy & Commerce Committee chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.)

The money will be spread among a number of projects--waste and drinking water and transportation--but also for the rural broadband deployment President Donald Trump has recently said was a priority given the need to connect farmers.

Related: Trump Signals $1.5 Trillion Infrastructure Investment

“Today’s agreement marks an important step forward on several priorities the Energy and Commerce Committee has championed for many months," Walden said after the bill passed the Hous and was signed by the President.

Passage of the two-year spending bill came after a brief government shutdown--a few hours--when Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) refused to let the bill get out of the Senate before speaking his mind about government spending and the need to rein it in.

"Whether it’s protecting our national security, repairing and modernizing our infrastructure, expanding access to rural broadband, or delivering a long-term health care solution for thousands of children and families, this agreement will help improve the lives of West Virginians and many other Americans," said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W. Va.).

Had there been a more lengthy  shutdown, the FCC would have been affected less than some other agencies because it pays for its budget entirely out of user fees it collects from licensees. During last month's shutdown, the commission remained open for business.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.