Dems Shrink Planned Broadband Infrastructure Spend in COVID Aid Bill

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Senate Democrats aren’t setting aside quite as much money as their House counterparts for FCC online learning efforts, according to the $1.9 trillion pandemic aid package unveiled Thursday. Although House Democrats had wanted $7.6 billion in FCC funding, the Senate version includes just $7.17 billion.

The amended Senate version would allow local COVID-19 recovery aid to support broadband infrastructure investments. Other cash would go to the FTC’s COVID work, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the National Science Foundation.  

Democrats say the FCC needs the money to help schools and libraries buy devices like WiFi hotspots to help students participate in remote learning. Republicans criticized the provision, saying schools should reopen and that connectivity subsidies could be better spent elsewhere. “We could spread that around the country and do a lot more,” Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH), the ranking member of the House Telecommunications Subcommittee, told Politico.

On Friday, Senators were debating amendments and the process was expected to go into the weekend. The measure was then expected to go back to the House for reconciliation and then to President Joe Biden for his signature, Politico reported.

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