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Senate Commerce Approves ACCESS BROADBAND Act

The Senate Commerce Committee has approved S. 1046, the Advancing Critical Connectivity Expands Service, Small Business Resources, Opportunities, Access, and Data Based on Assessed Need and Demand (ACCESS BROADBAND) Act, as well as two-other communications-related bills.  

That came at a markup Wednesday (March 11). The bills will now head to the Senate for a floor vote whose scheduling will be up to the majority leader, Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). 

The bill creates the Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth within the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, the White House's chief communications policy adviser. The office will track the construction, use and access to broadband infrastructure built with federal subsidies. Those include USDA-funded rural deployment programs and the FCC's Universal Service Fund.  

Related: House Authorizes SAFE WEB Act

The bill was sponsored by Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.). 

Also approved at the Wednesday (March 11) markup were S. 3132, which extends the Undertaking Spam, Spyware, And Fraud Enforcement With Enforcers beyond Borders (US SAFEWEB) Act of 2006 (bill sponsors were Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and S. 3191, Industries of the Future Act of 2020 (sponsors were Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), and Gary Peters (D-Mich.). 

The SAFEWEB Act provides tools to help consumers combat fraud that originates overseas by affirming the authority of the FTC to go after foreign actors affecting U.S. consumers and businesses, as House Energy & Commerce Committee chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) pointed out at the markup Thursday (Nov. 14). 

The law also helps the FTC exchange information and provide assistance to foreign law enforcement. Pallone said those authorities are crucial. 

The industries of the Future Act:  

1. "Requires the Administration to develop a report on the research and development programs of the federal government that focus on Industries of the Future;  

2. "Requires a plan for doubling the baseline investments in such industries by 2022 and a plan for increasing civilian spending on Industries of the Future to $10 billion by fiscal year 2025. The bill would also require the Administration to propose legislation to implement such spending plans.  

3. "Requires a Coordination Council that would better focus existing entities and require those entities to focus on advancing Industries of the Future."