Dems Seek Broadband/EV Charger Build-Out Pairing

Cars parked at an EV charging station.
(Image credit: Sven Loeffler/Getty Images)

Reps. Anna Eshoo and Doris Matsui, both D-Calif., have called on the departments of Transportation, and Energy, as well as the head of Commerce's National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA), to coordinate the deployment of broadband plant and EV charging stations, both of which are being subsidized with billions in infrastructure spending.

Eshoo has long advocated for "dig once" policies that pair up road construction or renewal with broadband infrastructure, but this is specifically targeted to electric vehicle chargers.

Their request came in a letter Friday to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, and Alan Davidson, head of Commerce's National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA), which is overseeing most of the Biden Administration's billions of dollars in new broadband subsidies.

They pointed to the connectivity requirements of chargers -- states are required to have an internet-connected charger network for ease of "data collection, accessibility and reliability."

They also talked about the equity issues of both broadband and EV charging stations. "Digital equity disparities exist in areas where access to broadband is non-existent or unaffordable and it proportionately affects rural areas and communities of color," they said. As for EV chargers, "apartment residents are less likely to have access to at-home chargers," they told the secretaries. "This disparity poses a particular challenge to lower-income households and communities of color, who are more likely to live in multi-unit housing."

They said there are similar issues in rural areas, "where limited electric distribution exacerbates range anxiety, the concern that vehicles will not be able to travel the distance needed."

Given that, they said, funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) should be used to build out broadband and EV charging networks simultaneously.

"In light of the national electric vehicle charging network’s connectivity requirements, the persistent digital divide, and EV charging infrastructure disparities across the nation, we encourage you to coordinate IIJA broadband and EV charging infrastructure efforts to encourage co-location of EVSE with telecommunications infrastructure when and where appropriate," they wrote the secretaries. ■

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.