Telecom groups hail Senate passage of U.S. infrastructure deal

The U.S. Senate approved a sprawling $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal which includes $65 billion in funding for broadband after months of wrangling over terms, earning praise from voices across the telecommunications industry.

Groups including the Competitive Carriers Association, Wireless Infrastructure Association and USTelecom hailed its passage. In a blog, USTelecom president and CEO Jonathan Spalter said the bill is “far from perfect” but represents “a generational (and hopefully transformational) investment in network deployment, affordability, cybersecurity and digital equity.”

He added “the Senate deserves credit for working together across the aisle to complete its job, and opening up a path so broadband innovators can finish our job.”

Similarly, Connect Americans Now executive director Richard T. Cullen called the bill a “down payment on tackling the broadband gap” which “will help ensure more Americans, living in both urban and rural areas, can acquire a quality education, access virtual health care tools and participate in the full promise of the 21st century digital economy.”

The Senate vote tally was 69-30, with 19 Republicans joining Democrats to advance the measure. The legislation now heads to the House of Representatives for a vote, and if approved will then be sent to President Joe Biden’s desk for a signature to become law. Democrats, President Biden’s party, currently have a majority in the House. However, Axios reported the bill could face pushback from some party members, making its fate unclear.

In his statement, Cullen urged the House to “swiftly advance” the bill, but CNN reported the House is not expected to take up the matter until autumn.

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The legislation’s $65 billion in broadband funding includes $42.45 billion for a new Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program focused on connecting un-and underserved areas; a $1 billion grant program targeting middle mile infrastructure; and $14.2 billion for an Affordable Connectivity subsidy program.