All 32 Democratic members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee reintroduced a more than $300 billion infrastructure bill on Thursday that, if passed, would make sweeping investments to expand high-speed internet across the U.S. The measure comes as Biden likely turns to infrastructure after signing the COVID-19 relief package into law, Inside Towers reported.
The Leading Infrastructure For Tomorrow’s America Act, or LIFT America Act, would include $80 billion to fund secure high-speed internet in unserved and underserved areas (both rural and urban). Three-fourths of the funds would be awarded by the FCC through a nationwide competitive bidding process to ensure the efficient distribution of the funds to areas that don’t have high-speed broadband internet service.
The FCC would be required to allocate the remaining one-fourth of the money to states, to fund broadband deployment using competitive bidding processes, to areas without high-speed broadband service. It also authorizes $500 million in additional funding for the tribal broadband grant program at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).
The measure authorizes an additional $6 billion for the Emergency Broadband Benefit program at the FCC, which provides a discount of up to $50 off the cost of monthly broadband service for eligible households, or up to $75 for households on tribal lands. It devotes an additional $2 billion for home internet connectivity for students, teachers, and library patrons based on the FCC’s E-Rate program.
The Commission would be required to adopt rules to collect from service providers certain data regarding broadband pricing and subscription rates, and data to determine network resiliency during natural disasters or emergencies. It also requires the FCC to issue rules to promote and incentivize a standard format for broadband internet service providers to disclose to consumers the price and terms of their service offerings.
The bill creates the Broadband Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (BIFIA) program at the NTIA. It would authorize $5 billion in federal funding for the BIFIA to make low-interest financing available for broadband infrastructure deployment projects. Eligible entities could apply for secured loans, lines of credit, or loan guarantees to finance broadband infrastructure build-outs.
If the measure passes, it also specifies $15 billion in grants for fiscal years 2022-2026 to deploy NextGen 911 services across the country. NextGen 911 would make 911 systems interoperable and more resilient; Callers could send text messages, images, or videos to 911 to help first responders better assess the nature of emergencies and protect callers when they can’t speak to 911 dispatchers.
“By modernizing our infrastructure,” said Committee Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ), “we have an opportunity to revitalize our economy, create millions of new jobs, combat climate change, and ensure no community is left behind.” The measure was first introduced in 2019, Inside Towers reported. It passed the House under the 116th Congress but failed in a then-GOP controlled Senate.