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Broadband For All?

Congress Expected to Consider New Bill on Broadband Access

The United States House of Representatives is introducing legislation this week, H.R. 1328, to establish the Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth.

The goal is to provide access and expand service to small businesses and to connect communities that need access to high-speed internet. The bill will also allow for regional workshops across the country to share best practices and effective strategies for promoting broadband access for all and the adoption and development of  targeted broadband training and presentations for various demographics.

The bill also looks to track federal dollars spent on broadband infrastructure and develop a streamlined accounting mechanism by which any agency offering a Federal broadband support program can be tracked in a standardized and efficient fashion.

The bill was introduced by New York Rep. Paul Tonko (D, 20th District), who sits on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

History:  Introduced on Feb 25, 2019

  • This bill is in the first stage of the legislative process. It was introduced into Congress on February 25, 2019. It will typically be considered by committee next before it is possibly sent on to the House or Senate as a whole.
  • 19 cosponsors (10D, 9R) – House Energy and Commerce – Committee chairs determine whether a bill will move past the committee stage. The legislation was reintroduced by Reps. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., and Susan Brooks, R-Ind., in the House, with a companion bill in the Senate introduced by Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., Cory Gardner, R-Colo., Doug Jones, D-Ala., and Ron Johnson, R-Wis.
  • A previous version of the bill was introduced in the 115thCongress and while it passed the House, it died in the Senate.

Problem/Relevance: 

The Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) annual Broadband Deployment Report found that, although the digital divide had narrowed “substantially,” 19.4 million Americans still lacked access to the FCC’s benchmarked broadband connection speed of 25 Mbps/3 Mbps.

It’s a problem affecting major cities and rural areas alike; a U.S. Census Bureau analysis of American Community Survey data showed that rural counties had the lowest rate of broadband subscriptions, with especially low response rates in part of the upper Plains, the Southwest and the South.

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