PCCA Journal 3rd Quarter 2020

PCCA Journal|3 rd Quarter 2020 13 Continued on page 14 InsideWashington COVID Response Measures Include Significant Attention to Broadband By Eben Wyman A s the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread across the country, crippling small business and local economies along the way, the importance of effective and ac- celerated deployment of broadband infra- structure is more apparent than ever. Closures of hospitals, schools, and other critical buildings underscore the impor- tance of remote-work directives intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus. At a time when the country is social distancing and face-to-face conversations are increasingly on hold, ensuring that Americans across the country have broad- band service must be a national priority. Since the world as we knew it changed in mid-March, Con- gress has passed several bills that provided direct payments to taxpayers, extended unemployment benefits, and extensive small business loans that were forgivable to employers who kept their workers on the payroll. At the same time, state and local governments have demanded more attention (and fund- ing) in future economic stimulus packages, and infrastructure proponents have lined up clamoring for funding directed toward their particular markets. While a comprehensive infrastructure package has been elusive, there has been no shortage of attention to the need for expedited broadband deployment stimulus legislation so far. Accessible, Affordable Internet for All During debate of two of the multitrillion-dollar stimulus packages, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) stepped up with two bold pieces of legislation aimed at not only funding broadband projects, but also requiring carriers to get projects off the ground quicker and to provide service with higher speeds at an expedited pace. The first came with the Moving Forward Act, which included Clyburn’s Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act (HR 7302), which would en- courage universal broadband access by: • Providing $80 billion to fund competitive bidding systems to build broadband infrastructure, • Allocating $5 billion for low-interest financing of broad- band deployment, and • Establishing a new office within the National Telecom- munications and Information Administration to ensure efficient use of federal money. HR 7302 also looked to ensure internet adoption and af- fordability by requiring options for internet service, providing discounts for low-income consumers, grant money for states to close gaps in broadband adoption and to enable students without internet at home to participate in remote learning, and additional funding for Wi-Fi on school buses so students can stay connected, especially in rural areas where longer EbenWyman PCCA Government & Industry Affairs eben@wymanassociates.net (703) 740-6126