Senators Ask Trump to Include Broadband Money in Infrastructure Plan

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The Trump administration is finalizing its long-awaited infrastructure plan; he may preview it in his January 30 State of the Union address but details would come later, according to sources familiar with the proposal, Reuters reported.

A group of U.S. Senators are urging the President to include funding for broadband deployment in the package. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and John Boozman (R-AR) spelled out the importance of high-speed internet access for rural areas in a letter to the White House this week.

“The administration’s infrastructure proposal should include stand-alone funding that is dedicated to advancing broadband deployment in addition to provisions that reduce regulatory barriers,” say the senators in the letter. They’re all members of the Senate Broadband Caucus. “Boosting current investments in broadband deployment will provide new economic opportunities in communities that are struggling to compete.”

The numbers in the administration plan are still in flux and could change before he unveils it, according to the unnamed aide and lobbyist. Under the plan being finalized, the largest share of the federal money – $100 billion – would go toward cost-sharing projects with local governments, similar to grants, a senior administration official told Reuters. Some $50 billion would be earmarked for rural projects. Those funds would help governors on projects like roads, broadband access and replacing aging lead pipes.

NTCA, the Rural Broadband Association, credited the Senate Broadband Caucus with its persistence. The letter dovetails with the proposal this week from FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to increase the Universal Service Fund support necessary to justify broadband investment and operations in rural America, said NTCA CEO Shirley Bloomfield. “NTCA continues to believe that sufficient funding and leveraging the universal service programs in coordination with broader infrastructure initiatives will be key to making meaningful progress in promoting and sustaining rural broadband deployment.”

January 19, 2018

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