Two top Republican Senators introduced a bill to direct some of the FCC’s record-setting $80+ billion C-band auction proceeds to a Treasury fund. Congress would then be able to direct up to $65 billion for broadband spending at either the FCC or the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).
Capturing such revenue could be a boon in upcoming infrastructure efforts, say Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), ranking member of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security.
The Broadband Reserve Fund Act “marks a meaningful step toward closing the digital divide and builds on some of the Committee’s recent accomplishments, such as improving broadband mapping and securing our communications networks,” said Wicker. “The pandemic has made internet access more vital than ever as Americans are relying on broadband services to work, learn, and connect with loved ones. This legislation would preserve valuable resources to expand broadband access in unserved areas, secure the nation’s communications supply chain, and promote the development of next-generation technologies.”
The Broadband Reserve Fund Act would:
- Create a Broadband Reserve Fund at the Treasury Department where the net proceeds from the C-band spectrum auction would be deposited, up to $65 billion;
- Make funds available for Congress to authorize for use by the FCC or the NTIA;
- Establish a sense of Congress to make potential uses for the fund that include broadband deployment in unserved areas, distance and remote learning, promoting digital equity and expanding internet access in minority communities and on tribal lands, securing the communications supply chain, enhancing spectrum efficiency, modernizing public safety communications infrastructure, and increasing accessibility to precision agriculture technologies, and telehealth technologies; and
- Require additional action by Congress to direct the eligible agencies on how to use the money. The funds would be available until 2030, at which point any remaining proceeds would be deposited in the general fund of the Treasury for deficit reduction.