DEPLOY Act Allocates $6.5B in Emergency Broadband Funds

DEPLOY Act Cable broadband operators are cheering the introduction of the Developing Economic Prosperity and Linking Our Youth through Broadband Act (DEPLOY Broadband Act). 

The bill, introduced by Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) would appropriate $6.5 billion in emergency funding to the FCC for broadband buildouts in unserved and rural areas and long-term funding for rural broadband via FCC auctions. 

The bill creates a "rural dividend," requiring that at least 10% of revenues from FCC spectrum auctions goes to build out broadband in both unserved and underserved areas, though the bill prioritizes unserved, which is why it passes muster with cable ops leery of government-subsidized overbuilds. 

Legislators on both sides of the aisle have advocated for more money for broadband because distance learning and job seeking and job performing and healthcare are the current new normal and exacerbate the digital divide. 

“This health crisis has laid bare the digital divide that exists in many of our rural communities. It’s estimated that more than 65,000 students in Colorado live in homes without any internet access, roughly eight percent of Colorado’s entire student population,” said Gardner. “That’s not acceptable with so many relying on broadband to receive an education, telecommute, and access healthcare. This legislation will dedicate immediate funding to build out rural broadband in unserved and rural areas throughout Colorado and the country and ensure there is a permanent allocation for rural broadband into the future.” 

“The COVID pandemic has heightened the need to ensure that all Americans can access reliable broadband service and the only way to close the access gap is to focus on areas where broadband service currently does not exist," said NCTA-The Internet & Television Association. "That is why we welcome efforts like the DEPLOY Broadband Act, which ensure that immediate federal resources are directed specifically to building networks in areas that are currently unserved. We applaud Sen. Gardner’s thoughtful approach to this important issue which will make a meaningful difference in connecting more Americans to broadband service.” 

NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association, was applauding as well: “NTCA greatly appreciates Senator Gardner’s commitment to advancing broadband deployment in rural America," said CEO Shirley Bloomfied. "This bill would complement existing efforts to expand connectivity in rural communities and provide a steady flow of resources to help the FCC build upon the successes of programs that today promote the deployment and sustainability of rural networks. We thank Sen. Gardner and look forward to working with Congress as it considers initiatives to expand and sustain broadband deployment across America."

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.