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.
Gayle Manchin, the wife of Sen Joe Manchin (D-WV) and federal co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission, is planning to make broadband connectivity a central pillar of her remit and is already talking to many of the region’s governors about working as a bloc. “I would like to see the 13 governors that are a part of this region actually come together and work on this as a unit,” said Manchin. “There’s power in numbers.” She suggested these 13 governors would have leverage if they went right to cable providers to ask for better connectivity.
A glimpse into how Senate negotiators may structure the $65 billion in broadband investments the infrastructure package would provide. The draft is likely to fuel renewed advocacy from consumer groups and anyone else hoping for ultra-fast fiber optic buildout, as it instead opts for lower minimum broadband speed thresholds (100 Megabits per second download over 20 Mbps upload would count as "underserved" for the $40 billion tentatively slated to go to the Commerce Department’s state grants, less than the fiber-focused minimums some Democrats wanted).
Wireless Infrastructure Association CEO Jonathan Adelstein is feeling “very encouraged” by recent Capitol Hill machinations over how to structure the $65 billion chunk of the bipartisan infrastructure deal intended to close the digital divide. He cited recent rumblings that lawmakers may ultimately opt for lower minimum internet speed requirements than what Democrats had previously hoped for.
For decades, policymakers in Washington and state capitals have fretted about the patchwork of broadband access in the United States, which has held back economic development in underserved areas and became a major problem during the pandemic. Now, after years of federal subsidies that have improved but not solved the problem, the Biden administration is proposing to spend $100 billion over the next eight years to finally connect every American household to high-speed internet. But solving the problem isn’t just a matter of cutting a big check to fund the installation of fiber pipelines.
Former Federal Communications Commissioner Mignon Clyburn and INCOMPAS CEO Chip Pickering are launching a new coalition, BroadLand, urging Congress to demand faster internet speeds as part of any multibillion-dollar broadband infrastructure initiatives. The floor should be at least 100 megabits per second for both downloads and uploads, the group says. Those speeds may sound awesome to anyone who’s tried to stream Netflix movies at home while roommates or family members conference over Zoom or attend virtual classes.
The Biden administration and California attorney general’s office are now trying to hash out how to resolve lingering uncertainty about the operation of a telehealth app called VA Video Connect. The federal Veterans Affairs Department raised concerns about the app’s future because wireless carriers subsidize its data usage costs for veterans in ways that a new California net neutrality law forbids (a situation, ISPs say, that could imperil offerings beyond just California).
Democrats are morphing their scrutiny of online falsehoods into a broader campaign against misinformation on right-leaning television outlets — a development that Republicans and some media organizations are calling a government attack on the First Amendment. The Democratic efforts include a House hearing where lawmakers lambasted conservative-leaning broadcasters and ca
Rep Greg Walden (R-OR), one of the most influential conservative figures in the technology and telecommunications policy landscape, is set to retire from Congress. He pushed back on GOP-led calls for the Federal Communications Commission to step in on Section 230, even as FCC Chairman Ajit Pai faces pressure to do so before he leaves the agencyin January: “I'm not so sure that I want the FCC in the middle of all of this,” Rep Walden said. “Even if some think they have the authority, I'm not convinced that's the case.
Federal Communications Commission nominee Nathan Simington reached out to Fox News in an attempt at “engaging” host Laura Ingraham to support President Donald Trump’s quest to make it easier to sue social media companies like Facebook and Twitter. Simington, a senior adviser in a key Commerce Department tech agency, wrote that the popular Fox News host could help sway the FCC to act on Trump's proposal before Election Day.