Congress is angling to impose some training wheels on the Trump administration when it comes to spending taxpayer dollars on broadband deployment. Lawmakers are eyeing the reconciliation process for the farm bill as a way to check the Agriculture Department, which manages various telecom subsidies through its Rural Utilities Service (RUS). “Appropriate guidance in the farm bill being reconciled and the department’s continued vigilance are critical to avoiding another boondoggle,” said a Senate GOP aide, referring to past alleged waste in the program.
The US is still struggling to complete the break up with Chinese telecom companies that Donald Trump started four years ago. The problem: Small communications networks, largely in rural areas, are saddled with old Chinese equipment they can’t afford to remove and which they can’t repair if it breaks. The companies say they want to ditch the Chinese tech, but promised funds from Congress aren’t coming quickly enough and aren’t enough to cover the cost.
Broadband internet satellites are set to sweep the skies over the next decade at a scale never before seen. Just don’t ask policymakers today how exactly we’re going to manage the fallout. The story is a familiar one to longtime watchers of technology. Companies hooked up homes with electricity, with phone lines, TV signals and the internet — miracles of modern connectivity — but not without communities inheriting a cityscape loaded with hanging wires and accompanying fire hazards.
The race to build 6G is on—or, at least, the race to start selling the idea to Washington.
Midterm politics are endangering a key Biden nominee who would give Democrats a majority at the Federal Communications Commission — jeopardizing the administration’s push to restore net neutrality and other tech regulations rolled back in the Trump era. A coalition of Republicans, moderate Democrats and telecom industry allies are ratcheting up pressure on potential swing Democrats to oppose FCC nominee Gigi Sohn, including by calling the progressive consumer advocate an “anti-police radical” and accusing her of being biased against rural America.
With billions of dollars set to flow to internet connectivity, lawmakers are questioning how the Biden administration plans to coordinate spending them. In January 20 hearing before the House Agriculture Committee, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack fielded several questions from lawmakers of both parties about how the department has set up its latest round of $1.15 billion in broadband loan and grant funding through its ReConnect program, which will accept applications through February 22.
President Biden says he pushed wireless carriers to accommodate the aviation industry’s reservations about 5G
President Joe Biden donned the jersey of Team Delay by making it clear he had pushed for airlines to get more time to account for certain kinds of legacy aviation equipment. “What I’ve done is pushed as hard as I can to have the 5G folks hold up and abide by what was being requested by the airlines until they could more modernize over the years, so 5G would not interfere with the potential of a landing,” Biden said.
Democrats are gearing up for another attempt at confirming President Joe Biden’s nominees for top posts at the Federal Communications Commission, Federal Trade Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration after GOP objections stalled them in 2021. The three nominations — Gigi Sohn [Senior Fellow and Public Advocate at the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society] for the open FCC seat, Alvaro Bedoya for the open FTC seat and Alan Davidson to head NTIA — technically expired when the December 2021 session ended.
Washington is finally tackling one of the biggest obstacles to closing the nation’s digital divide: identifying the broadband dead zones where millions of Americans lack fast internet service. But that’s coming too late for the broadband gold rush of 2021. States and cities are already allocating more than $10 billion in federal pandemic relief to get broadband into underserved communities — the biggest government investment ever toward increasing internet connectivity.