Week ahead in tech: Lawmakers push to improve broadband access


A House panel will look into ways to build out the nation’s broadband infrastructure in the coming week.

The issue is getting added attention as President Trump is set to discuss his long-promised $1.7 trillion infrastructure proposal during Tuesday’s State of the Union address.

Hours before he shares details on his plans, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on technology will be holding a hearing to discuss a slate of bills aimed at bringing internet access to more Americans.

The panel will hear from representatives from the cable, internet and wireless industries and take up 22 bills from both sides of the aisle.


Members have been ramping up their efforts to emphasize the importance of expanding broadband networks as the White House teases its infrastructure plan, which could be released in full by the end of the month.

Both parties largely share a goal of delivering high-speed internet to rural areas, but there are different philosophies between Democrats and Republicans on how to do that.

House Democrats released their own infrastructure bill last year that would inject $40 billion into programs for expanding access for unserved and underserved communities. A Federal Communications Commission (FCC) report last year estimated that figure is how much it would cost to deliver internet access to 98 percent of Americans. Getting internet access to the remaining harder-to-reach 2 percent, though, would require an additional $40 billion.

The Democrats’ infrastructure bill, called the LIFT America Act, will be considered at Tuesday’s hearing.

Republicans, meanwhile, have not said how much money they are willing to spend on broadband infrastructure, but the White House has endorsed a combination of private and public investment to boost efforts.

Still, bipartisan groups in the House and Senate have rallied around pushing the administration for direct funding for rural broadband expansion.

The bipartisan Senate Broadband Caucus, led by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) sent a letter to the president earlier this month pleading for stand-alone funding.

“Our rural communities have connectivity needs that are not being met, limiting economic opportunity and growth,” the letter reads. “Prioritizing direct funding support for broadband deployment in an infrastructure package will help close the digital divide and ensure our country maintains its global competitiveness.”

Also on Tuesday, the Senate Commerce Committee will look at the progress of the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act a year after its passage in a 2:30 p.m. hearing.

At 10 a.m. that day, the House Banking Committee’s subcommittee on financial institutions will hold a hearing on financial technology.

At the same time, the House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing titled “Readying the U.S. Military for Future Warfare.”

Also on Tuesday, at 11 a.m. the House Small Business Committee will examine foreign cybersecurity threats.


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