Dems Say Infrastructure/COVID-19 Aid Bill is Priority

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that the coronavirus has "laid bare" the infrastructure deficits that a Democratic bill, re-branded as the fourth coronavirus aid package, that was introduced in January is meant to address. 

The bill included about $86 billion for high-speed broadband, identified then as one of the country's most urgent infrastructure needs, and now even more so in the age of a shelter- and quarantine-at-home populace. It would direct $80 billion over five years to deploy highs-speed broadband to "unserved and underserved rural, suburban, and urban areas across the country" and another five billion to low-interest loans over five years. 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]."  

Pelosi said in a press conference that a new version of the January infrastructure bill would be a priority when, coronavirus willing, Congress returns later in the month. She called House Energy & Commerce Committee chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) a champion of the relationship between public health, clean water, broadband and the public health system. 

Pelosi said the bill was needed "because of the historic nature of the health and economic emergency that we are confronting. We must take bold action to renew America’s infrastructure," she said. 

"Telemedicine, teleworking, tele-schooling and increased use of social media and video conferencing by Americans connecting with loved ones during this epidemic have made access to high speed broadband more critical than ever," she said. 

She also said infrastructure buildouts would create millions of good-paying jobs. 

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.