House Reps. Outline Goals for New Law’s $65B Investment in Broadband Internet Development

According to a House Energy and Commerce Committee letter sent Monday to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), more than a dozen Democratic legislators have advocated for certain priorities concerning broadband expansion under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The lawmakers said that “affordability, digital inclusion, high-capacity networks, competition, and community engagement,” are key goals for the historic $65 billion investment in broadband access.

The letter identified the NTIA as the agency entrusted by Congress to administer broadband rollout including the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program, which provides funding to states and territories for activities including network deployment, planning and mapping, and digital adoption projects. The Digital Equity Act of 2021 was also mentioned for its goal of helping ensure “that everyone has the technology, skills, and capacity to participate in the digital economy.”

The letter then delved into each of the five priority areas, stating with regards to affordability the legislators’ hope that the NTIA would “make the low-cost offering requirement in the BEAD program as widely available as feasible.” As for digital inclusion, the representatives urged the NTIA to designate digital inclusion activities in view of the fact that “affordability, access to devices, and digital literacy are barriers to adoption for many people.”

Among other goals, the letter pressed the NTIA to foster competition amongst broadband providers in order to increase consumer choice. The legislators noted that this is in line with President Biden’s July 2021 Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy, which reported that consumers pay too much for broadband, citing a lack of competition. 

“Further, NTIA should examine the FCC’s recent action to ensure competitive access to apartment buildings, public housing, and other multi-tenant environments, and incorporate those measures as appropriate in BEAD,” the letter said, partly referencing recent inquiries made by the Federal Communications Commission into the status of competition in certain broadband markets.