Government Relations Update January 2020
House Democratic Leaders Announce Infrastructure Plan
On January 29, the chairmen of three key committees in the House announced the framework of a major infrastructure plan calling for $760 billion in investment over a five-year period. Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (OR-4), Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (NJ-6), and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (MA-1) outlined a plan that includes an $86 billion investment in broadband over the five years covered by the proposal. Of that sum, $80 billion would go directly towards the deployment of secure and resilient broadband for unserved and underserved communities in rural, suburban, and urban areas across the nation; another $5 billion would be directed to a new program for low-interest financing for broadband deployment projects and a further $1.4 billion would be directed towards the promotion of digital equity efforts.
The plan goes beyond the scope of the LIFT America Act (H.R. 2741), which previously served as the benchmark for Democratic infrastructure plans in this Congress, calling for nearly double the amount of direct investment in broadband deployment. The plan builds upon elements from that bill as well as others introduced last year including the Broadband Infrastructure and Finance Innovation Act (H.R. 4127) and the Digital Equity Act (H.R. 4486).
Legislation to implement this framework is still forthcoming. Additionally, there is currently no companion effort to promote a major infrastructure initiative in the Senate.
USDA Announces Window for Second Round of Broadband Funding
On January 27, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced that the application window for the second round of funding under the ReConnect Pilot Program would begin on January 31. Round one of the program has so far provided over $340 million in grant and loan funding for eligible projects to provide broadband service to unserved and underserved communities. This second round will make $550 million of loan and grant funding available to applicants.
OSTP Seeks Public Comment on Draft Data Guidelines
The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) posted a Request for Comments on January 17 regarding a draft set of desirable characteristics for the management and sharing of data generated by Federally funded research. Through this process, OSTP seeks to assist Federal agencies in providing more consistent information to the scientific community about desirable characteristics of data repositories for data subject to agency data management and sharing policies. These characteristics could apply to repositories operated by either government or non-governmental entities. The comment period will close on March 6.