Skip to main content

Dems Propose $86 Billion for Broadband Buildout

House Democratic leaders have released a "framework"--rather than a bill--for a five-year infrastructure investment that would include about $86 billion for high-speed broadband, identified as one of the country's most urgent infrastructure needs.

The framework was proposed by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chair Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Energy and Commerce Committee chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), and Ways and Means Committee chair Richard Neal (D-Mass.).

The "transformative" broadband investments constitute $80 billion over five years to deploy highs-ed broadband to "unserved and underserved rural, suburban, and urban areas across the country."

Another five billion would go to low-interest loans over five years. The new program would allow eligible entities to apply for loans, lines of credit and loan guarantees so they can finance infrastructure buildouts.

The other $1 billion-plus would go to "promote digital equity and build capacity for efforts by States relating to the adoption of broadband [$540 million]," and to "support digital equity, promote digital inclusion activities, and spur greater adoption of broadband among covered populations [$600 million]."

There is also a separate, $12 billion, allocated to Next Gen 911, which would allow for sending texts and videos, as well as audio, via 911.

No word yet on just where the money will be coming from. The legislators say they are working toward "bipartisan pay-fors."

One option for the broadband portion could the FCC 5G spectrum auction proceeds--from the C-Band auction for example--that Democrats, and some Republicans, want to go toward broadband buildouts.

"Today House Democratic Leadership unveiled its plan to update this Nation’s aged infrastructure, proposing, among other things in the $760 Billion plan, $80 billion over five years to expand broadband access to unserved and underserved rural, suburban, and urban areas across the country," said the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association. "WISPA hails this level of commitment. If enacted into law, it will go far in bridging the debilitating digital divide."

“Today’s plan is a good place to start to ensure broadband reaches every unserved American family, community and enterprise," said USTelecom President Jonathan Spalter. "A federal infrastructure investment on this scale that leverages private dollars will achieve three bipartisan goals: narrow the digital divide, expand access and make network infrastructure more resilient. Win, win, win.”