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.
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)
“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.
Broadcasting & Cable Newsletter
The smarter way to stay on top of broadcasting and cable industry. Sign up below
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.