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COVID-19 Relief Bill Continues Broadband Investment, Helps Broadcast Stations

A close-up image of COVID-19
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The COVID-19 relief compromise bill agreement struck over the weekend includes more money for broadband funding, and reportedly expands small business loans for individual broadcast stations and newspapers hard hit by the pandemic.

In the original CARES Act, only single and struggling stations and newspapers could get small business loans. In this bill, broadcasters and publishers had wanted the government to treat struggling individual stations or papers as small businesses, even if they were part of larger groups that would not qualify if viewed from that perspective.

The new relief package reportedly contains such provisions.

Also Read: $1.5 Billion in CARES Act Funding Includes Broadband

The bill, which has yet to pass, also includes $7 billion for expanded broadband access for students, families and unemployed workers. That includes $300 million for rural broadband and $250 million for telehealth programs.

The bill text is expected to be released Monday (Dec. 21)

Also Read: $1.5 Billion in CARES Act Funding Includes Broadband

“We want to thank Members of Congress from both political parties for stepping up to support extending broadband funding in the CARES Act, which has proven critical to families, students and small businesses who need to stay connected to the internet during the pandemic," said Chip Pickering, CEO of broadband and computer association INCOMPAS. But he added: "Other nations have taken massive steps forward to deploy faster speed networks with gigabit goals designed to win the race to 5G and beyond. The next Congress and the Biden-Harris Administration must make universal, high-speed, affordability a top priority in the first 100 days or our economy could get stuck in the slow lane for decades to come.”

It was not clear at press time whether a studio-backed bill to make pirating video streams a felony rather than simply a misdemeanor made it onto the compromise bill.