After a successful lobbying effort, WIA is pleased to report that the Senate included wireless for funding eligibility in its landmark infrastructure bill. By a bipartisan vote of 69-30, the Senate-approved bill will provide $65 billion for broadband deployment and access. This bill will now promote wireless infrastructure deployment, with a priority on unserved communities.
WIA helped convince Congress to provide agencies with the needed flexibility to allow all broadband technologies, including mobile and fixed wireless, the opportunity to compete for funding. As a result, Congress adopted an all-of-the-above broadband strategy, as pursued by WIA, that will help close the digital divide and win the race to 5G.
Of the $65 billion allocated for broadband:
- $42.45 billion will be funneled to the states, through NTIA at the Commerce Department, to fund projects each state approves independently.
— Projects that receive state funding must commit to providing speeds of 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload, as successfully advocated by WIA.
— Projects are also required to demonstrate resiliency and priority consideration will be given to projects that can be completed faster. Both factors favor wireless buildout, which WIA worked hard to get included.
- Also included in the broadband allocation is:
— $14.2 billion for the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Fund (previously the Emergency Broadband Benefit Fund) to help low-income customers pay their bills;
— $2.75 billion for Digital Equity Act programs;
— $2 billion for NTIA’s Tribal Broadband Connectivity Fund;
— $2 billion in support for rural areas under the USDA ReConnect Program at RUS;
— $1 billion for Middle Mile projects; and
— $600 million for state Private Activity Bonds for rural broadband.
Also included in the bill was a WIA-supported amendment by Sens. John Thune (R-SD) and Jon Tester (D-MT) that will form an interagency working group to provide recommendations to Congress on how to best address workforce needs of the telecommunications industry, particularly for 5G deployment, with a focus on apprenticeships. WIA worked closely with the amendment sponsors to develop the provision.
The bill will now move to the House, which likely will take it up in the Fall.
WIA worked closely with key policymakers to ensure that industry’s priorities were included in the legislation, and the final product shows how successful that effort was. WIA will continue to advocate for the wireless industry as the infrastructure deal works through the House and onto the President’s desk.
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