Hill Dems Push $40B in Direct Broadband Funding

Hill Democrats are promoting the $40 billion broadband investment from their May 2017 LIFT America Act in a new trillion-dollar infrastructure plan released Wednesday (March 7) in the wake of President Donald Trump's plan to invest $200 billion and hope the private sector leverages that into a trillion dollar-plus investment.

The Democratic plan is billed as "Returning the Republican Tax Giveaways for the Wealthy to the American People." It includes boosting the corporate tax rate to 25%. A Republican bill in January lowered the rate from 35% to 21%.

Unlike the Trump infrastructure plan, which includes no direct broadband investment, the Dems say they want the government to invest $40 billion in direct funding to connect everyone to "affordable" high-speed broadband. "While the private sector has delivered high-speed internet to many, millions of Americans in less profitable rural and urban areas have been left out," said the report.

Related: Senate Schedules Three Infrastructure Hearings

The plan is to fund a new Universal Internet Grant Program to close the "last mile" gap. The priorities for the fund would be bankrolling "adequate, affordable high-speed internet" where it is most needed, upgrading plant where "reasonable," leverage federal money, use taxpayer money reasonably, "tackle" the tribal broadband gap, create accurate maps of internet access, deliver competitive speeds and upgrade 911.

“Today’s infrastructure announcement by Senate Democrats is a welcome addition to the ongoing infrastructure dialogue,” said NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association CEO Shirley Bloomfield. "[W]e are eager for further conversations about how to help ensure that properly coordinated and effective programs can promote and sustain affordable access to future-proof broadband networks by all Americans.”

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.