Republicans in Congress on April 22 presented their own version of a framework to improve infrastructure in the United States. While it doesn’t look too much like President Biden’s much larger American Jobs Plan infrastructure proposal, for tech-related issues the key overlap appears to be funding for broadband infrastructure expansion.
The Republican framework envisions $568 billion of infrastructure investments over five years, versus President Biden’s proposal which clocks in with a $2 trillion price tag. On the broadband front, the GOP plan offers $65 billion for broadband infrastructure, compared to $100 billion under the Biden plan.
Both proposals are somewhat light on details about broadband investments, with the Republican summary indicating that the new funding would be connected to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).
For its part, the Biden plan offers details about goals – closing availability and affordability gaps across the U.S. – but remains mostly opaque about strategies the Federal government might use to take what appears to be a big leap into the national broadband service market.
Introduced by Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., Shelley Moore Capito, R-W. Va., Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and John Barrasso, R-Wyo., the GOP version of the infrastructure plan is touted in a press release as “the largest infrastructure investment that Republicans have ever put forth.”
“When Americans think of rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure, they think of fixing roads, bridges, airports, ports, and waterways – not expanding the welfare state as the Democrats have proposed. This Republican proposal sensibly rebuilds the nation’s real infrastructure without raising taxes or increasing the debt,” said Sen. Toomey.
Despite the gap in funding and priorities between the two proposals, there is bipartisan agreement that U.S. broadband infrastructure could use a boost. The Biden proposal identifies broadband as the “the new electricity,” and says that 30 million Americans live in areas without broadband service that provides minimally acceptable speeds.
“The American people want to see their roads, bridges, waterways, airports, water storage, and broadband upgraded,” said Sen. Barrasso. “Our plan will remove regulatory barriers that stand in the way of these projects and important energy infrastructure. Democrats should work with us to find a bipartisan solution.”
“The President has said from the beginning that he would welcome any good-faith effort to find common ground, because the only unacceptable step would be inaction,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a press briefing on April 22. “We’re looking forward to reviewing the details of the proposal. We would expect the next steps would be a full briefing and conversations on a staff level that will continue over the coming days, and an exchange of ideas from there.”