On Sunday, Aug. 1, the group of senators negotiating the bipartisan infrastructure package unveiled the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The $1.2 trillion package contains $550 billion in new infrastructure spending, including $65 billion for broadband.
This alert, after providing an overview and analysis, contains a section-by-section summary of the broadband provisions within the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
OVERVIEW OF KEY BROADBAND PROVISIONS
Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Program
The legislation authorizes and appropriates $42.45 billion for the establishment of a new Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Program operated by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), through which it would issue grants to states to increase connectivity to unserved, underserved and high-cost areas as well as to anchor institutions. Key provisions include defining unserved as lacking at least 25/3 Mbps, requiring minimum performance of 100/20 Mbps, requiring an NTIA-approved low-cost option, completing build-out in four years, banning exclusion of public providers and barring NTIA from regulating broadband rates.
The bill contains several programs to advance digital equity and digital inclusion to ensure communities have access to affordable and reliable internet service and devices that allow them to participate fully in the U.S. economy. The bill also contains efforts to promote digital literacy. To achieve these goals, the bill creates a new State Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program and Digital Equity Competitive Grant program.
The legislation also calls on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to adopt guidance within two years to promote equal access to broadband internet service and prevent discrimination based on the predominant income level or race of a community.
Middle Mile Infrastructure
The bill authorizes and appropriates $1 billion over five years for grants to support the construction, improvement or acquisition of “middle-mile” projects.
The bill directs the FCC to promulgate rules extending and expanding the Emergency Broadband Benefit—renamed the Affordable Connectivity Benefit—enacted under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (P.L.116-260). It also appropriates over $14 billion for the program.
Click here for a full breakdown of broadband provisions included in the bipartisan infrastructure package.