Government Relations Update September 2018
Congress Passes FY2018 Funding Bills
Congress passed two major spending packages last month, narrowly avoiding the September 30 deadline for the beginning of FY2019. The first, H.R. 5895, provided funding increases for a number of priorities, including $35.5 billion for the Department of Energy (an increase of $1 billion from FY2018) and a recommendation of $85 million for ESnet (an increase of $6 million from FY2018).
The second, H.R. 6157, contained funding from the Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education bills, as well as a continuing appropriation for all other agencies not funded by this legislation. The continuing resolution will keep all other federal agencies operating at FY2018 funding levels until December 7, 2018. This bill avoided a government shutdown on October 1, 2018, by providing additional time for Congress to fully fund the rest of the federal government after the midterm elections.
Internet2 Files Comments with RUS
On July 27, 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) released a Notice of Inquiry and Request for Comments on the Broadband e-Connectivity Pilot Program. This new initiative was created through a one-time appropriation of $600 million in the FY2018 omnibus bill. The accompanying authorization language in the bill directed RUS to expedite loans and grants for the costs of the construction, improvement, and acquisition of facilities and equipment for broadband service in eligible rural areas.
In response to the RUS request, Internet2 filed comments on September 10, 2018. Internet2 recommended that RUS should: 1) make funding available for middle-mile and backhaul projects; 2) prioritize last-mile projects connecting community anchor institutions in rural areas; 3) prioritize projects that benefit education in rural America; 4) favor pilot projects funded through grants; 5) encourage public-private partnerships; and 6) use performance metric tools to help define “sufficient access” to broadband.