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Senate Bill Could Free Up Billions More Broadband Bucks

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(Image credit: Tim Robberts/Getty Images)

The Senate has passed the bipartisan State, Local, Tribal and Territorial Fiscal Recovery, Infrastructure and Disaster Relief Flexibility Act, which could free up potentially hundreds of billions more for broadband buildouts, and without any additional legislation.

States got $1.9 trillion in Congress's COVID-19 rescue legislation earlier this year, specifically to deal with the loss of revenues due to COVID-19. But the AP reported last month that more than half a trillion dollars of that had yet to be spent.

The just-passed bill would expand the places all that money could go.

"This legislation puts decision-making power at the local level and gives these leaders more flexibility to invest in the most critical projects for their communities, whatever those might be," said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), one of the new bill's chief architects.

That new bill would allow states to use up to 30% of their respective allocations not yet spent for infrastructure projects, including broadband. It would also allow 100% of unspent funds to be spent on disaster recovery, which could also implicate broadband in the case of damaged communications infrastructure.

Also backing the bill are Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-ALaska), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), John Kennedy (R-La.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.L), and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska).