This week, the members of the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee moved forward on their commitment to ensure that broadband is part of any infrastructure investment package coming out of Congress. On March 13th, the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology kicked things off with a hearing on rural broadband. Then, on March 14th, the full Senate Commerce Committee held an infrastructure hearing with testimony from the Secretaries of Transportation, Commerce, Labor, Agriculture, and Energy.
Bob DeBroux of TDS Telecom, an ITTA member, testified at the March 13th hearing, which was entitled “Rebuilding Infrastructure in America: Investing in Next Generation Broadband.” Bob urged Congress to dedicate funding to rural broadband deployment as part of any infrastructure framework and to direct that funding to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for distribution through its Universal Service (USF) program. He noted that the FCC’s High-Cost USF program has a proven track record of success in turning funds into broadband networks. Bob added that should Congress direct broadband funds to a governmental entity other than the FCC, it should require that the funds only be awarded to projects that are technology neutral and not duplicative of existing investment.
At the March 14th Senate Commerce Committee hearing, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue informed the Committee he would back efforts to add dedicated broadband funding to a final infrastructure bill. Perdue said we need “ubiquitous broadband” in rural America. ITTA agrees!
The prospects for an infrastructure bill this year are uncertain given that this is an election year with a shortened legislative calendar. However, ITTA is encouraged that congressional leaders have joined in a bipartisan manner to call for dedicated broadband funding to be included in any infrastructure legislation. Now we need to get it done!