National Broadband Plan Legislation Introduced in Senate

The strategy would identify gaps and limitations that would hinder coordination across federal broadband programs.

National Broadband Plan Legislation Introduced in Senate
Photo of Roger Wicker, Senator, R-Miss.

WASHINGTON, August 4, 2022 – Senators and representatives on both sides of aisle introduced legislation Thursday that would require the president to develop a national strategy and a plan to implement that strategy to close the digital divide.

Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Ben Lujan, D-N.M., partnered with Reps. Tim Walberg, R-Mich., and Peter Welch, D-Vt., to introduce the bipartisan and bicameral Proper Leadership to Align Networks for Broadband Act to the Senate Thursday.

The national broadband strategy would list all federal broadband programs and identify gaps and limitations that would hinder coordination across those programs.

The bill would also synchronize interagency coordination among covered agencies for federal broadband programs by appropriating committees of Congress to manage federal broadband programs. The intention is to reduce barriers, lower costs, and ease administrative burdens for states, local and tribal governments participating in federal broadband programs.

“Closing the digital divide is one of Congress’ top priorities, but we cannot achieve that goal if our programs are mismanaged and lack coordination,” Wicker said in a press release. “A national broadband strategy will ensure our agencies are synchronized and manage these programs effectively to make sure that more Americans gain access to high-speed broadband.”

“Developing a detailed roadmap that improves the efficiency and coordination of federal broadband programs is a commonsense step we can take to accelerate deployment to the rural communities that need it most,” added Walberg.

The bill comes in response to a Government Accountability Office report that found federal broadband efforts are fragmented and overlapping.

Federal Communications Commissioner Brenden Carr applauded the bill in a press release, saying that it was a “vital bill that would fill a key gap in the federal government’s approach to broadband infrastructure spending.”

The bill’s introduction follows the FCC’s public notice last month inviting comment on updating the interagency agreement between the FCC, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and National Telecommunications and Information Administration on coordinating broadband efforts.

The agreement currently requires that agencies provide information about project areas, entities that provide broadband services, levels of broadband service provided, and each entity that has or will receive funds to provide service in that area upon request from another agency.

Commenters called for the agreement to include efforts to ensure that all federal agencies avoid awarding funds to locations that have already been funded, eliminating overbuilding and inefficient use of taxpayer resources.

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