What you need to know
- The U.S. Senate has passed a major bill to improve various aspects of the country's infrastructure.
- Part of the bill includes funds to help increase access to high-speed, reliable internet.
- The bill awaits a vote in the House of Representatives.
The United States Senate has just passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a historic $1.2 trillion bipartisan package to improve various aspects of the country's infrastructure.
The bill aims to grow the economy and create more jobs while improving the country's roads, bridges, transit systems, and more. Part of the package includes a $65 billion investment in expanding America's broadband efforts, bringing more affordable and reliable internet to more people across the country.
The bill will also help lower prices for internet service by requiring funding recipients to offer a low-cost affordable plan, by requiring providers to display a "Broadband Nutrition Label" that will help families comparison shop for a better deal, and by boosting competition in areas where existing providers aren't providing adequate service.
The bill also includes the Digital Equity Act, which was first spearheaded in 2019 by U.S. Senator Patty Murray. The bill will help create new grant programs to bring internet to those that need it across the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Funds from the bill could help promote local internet access, providing tools from the best cheap laptops to digital literacy classes for students.
Murray praised the Senate's move on Tuesday, saying that the bill is "putting us on the path toward universal broadband & helping cut costs while bridging the digital divide."
Recently, the FCC launched the Emergency Broadband Benefit program to help provide discounts on internet service. However, the program is part of a $3.2 billion COVID-19 relief package. In contrast, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act has a broader reach and would provide more financial support for America's broadband efforts. Part of the bill requires the FCC to adopt new rules around digital redlining and a permanent program for low-income families.
The Senate passage was also praised by President Joe Biden, who said in a statement on Tuesday that the bill "will deliver affordable, high-speed Internet to every American — a necessity for the 21st century."
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed in the Senate with a 69-30 majority, with 19 U.S. republicans backing the bill. However, the remaining members of the party were not pleased. Senator Ted Cruz calls the bill a "gateway drug to more reckless spending" that could put America further in a deficit.
The bill still has to pass a vote in the House of Representatives before it reaches Biden's desk for approval.