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Legislation Looks To Spur Broadband Deployment

In an effort to expand broadband access and help close the digital divide, Congressman Jerry McNerney (CA-09), a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, and Congresswoman Cindy Axne (IA-03), a member of the House Rural Broadband Task Force, have introduced H.R. 1700, the Broadband Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (BIFIA).

Modeled after two effective federal programs, the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) and the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA), BIFIA would provide $5 billion in federal funding for low-interest financing of broadband infrastructure deployment projects. This new program would allow eligible entities, including state and local governments and public-private partnerships, to apply for secured loans, lines of credit, and loan guarantees to finance broadband infrastructure projects.

“My district is a testament to the success of this model, having recently received a loan to upgrade our water systems through the WFIA program,” said Congressman McNerney. “Not only is that loan enhancing the infrastructure of our community, it is also creating job opportunities for residents. By replicating this program to upgrade and expand broadband infrastructure where it is desperately needed, we are investing in our communities’ futures while also providing new economic opportunities presently. I thank my colleague, Representative Axne, for working with me on this critical legislation.”

This legislation is also included in two recently introduced infrastructure packages, the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act and the Leading Infrastructure For Tomorrow’s America (LIFT) Act.

“The pandemic has only emphasized how essential fast and reliable internet service is for Iowans,” said Congresswoman Axne. “Unfortunately, in far too many communities high-speed internet is unavailable or unreliable. I’ve heard from numerous counties and towns that want to build new broadband, but have been working for years to get the money they need to cover the costs – and that’s what this bill is intended to fix. I am proud to work with Rep. McNerney to get communities the financing they need to finally build out broadband to families and businesses across America.”