Pallone & Doyle Highlight Broadband and Connectivity Wins in the House Passed Omnibus Package
Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle (D-PA) released the following joint statement today after the House of Representatives passed the end of the year omnibus that included several broadband and connectivity expansion bills:
“Today, as part of the sweeping omnibus bill, we are including $7 billion to assist struggling families better afford their internet service, and to help connect tribal and rural communities and students, faculty and staff of minority colleges and universities. We are also making our broadband equipment more secure and improving telehealth. This legislation will provide discounts to struggling families of $50 per month for their internet service so that they do not fall victim to the digital divide and for families on Tribal lands it would be up to $75.
“The House also passed several critical pieces of legislation that will increase broadband adoption and access, ensure our Federal broadband deployment dollars are used efficiently and effectively, and improve the security of our communication networks. With an increased number of families and businesses working from home throughout this pandemic, we recognized how important it was for Congress to prioritize greater broadband access, resiliency, and adoption in this omnibus, and we are pleased to have achieved exactly that. We must continue to ensure our communication networks are within reach for all Americans, especially for public safety entities, regardless of their location. We are proud of the hard, bipartisan work that went into these communications and technology bills and look forward to seeing them become law.”
The House of Representatives’ end of the year omnibus includes:
More than $7 billion in broadband funding as part of COVID-19 relief to:
- Establishes the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) based on the Emergency Broadband Connections Act introduced by Rep. Marc Veasey (D-TX). Under the Program, eligible households may receive a discount of up to $50, or up to $75 on Tribal lands, off the cost of internet service and a subsidy for low-cost devices such as computers and tablets. $3.2 billion is appropriated for the Program.
- Establishes two grant programs at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The first, funded at $1 billion, is directed to tribal governments to be used not only for broadband deployment on tribal lands, but also telehealth, distance learning, broadband affordability, and digital inclusion. The second is a $300 million broadband deployment program to support broadband infrastructure deployment to areas lacking broadband, especially rural areas.
- Expands eligibility for the Secure and Trusted Reimbursement Program at the FCC that compensates providers for the cost of removing and replacing certain unsecure equipment from their networks, which will help protect our nation’s communications networks from foreign adversaries. This is appropriated at $1.9 billion.
- Establishes an Office of Minority Broadband Initiatives at the NTIA to focus on broadband access and adoption at Historically Black colleges or universities, Tribal colleges and universities, and other Minority-serving institutions, including the students, faculty, and staff of such institutions and their surrounding communities. It also appropriates $285 million for a Pilot Program to award grants to these institutions, including to help students of these institutions afford broadband service.
- Appropriates an additional $250 million to the FCC for its COVID-19 Telehealth Program authorized under the CARES Act.
- Appropriates $65 million to the FCC to create broadband data maps required under the Broadband DATA Act.
- Appropriates $1.9 billion for the FCC’s Secure and Trusted Reimbursement Program.
The Don’t Break Up the T-Band Act of 2020, which was introduced as H.R. 451 by Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), repeals the requirement for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to clear and auction critical public safety spectrum in the 470 to 512 megahertz band, commonly referred to as the T-band. It also directs the FCC to take steps to end 9-1-1 fee diversion.
The Advancing Critical Connectivity Expands Service, Small Business Resources, Opportunities, Access, and Data Based on Assessed Need and Demand (ACCESS BROADBAND) Act, which was introduced as H.R. 1328 by Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY), establishes the Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth (Office) at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). This Office would be tasked with performing certain responsibilities related to broadband access, adoption, and deployment, such as performing public outreach to promote access and adoption of high-speed broadband service, and standardizing the process for applying for Federal broadband support. It also establishes coordination requirements between agencies that offer broadband deployment funding programs, to ensure Federal funds are spent efficiently and effectively.
The Broadband Interagency Coordination Act requires the FCC, the NTIA, and the Department of Agriculture to enter into an interagency agreement to coordinate the distribution of federal funds for broadband programs, to prevent duplication of support, and ensure stewardship of taxpayer dollars.
The Beat CHINA for 5G Act of 2020 directs the President, acting through the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information, to withdraw or modify federal spectrum assignments in the 3450 to 3550 megahertz band. It also directs the FCC to revise the non-Federal allocation of the band to permit flexible-use services and to begin a system of competitive bidding for a portion or all of the band no later than December 31, 2021.