The Senate Commerce Committee is loading up on infrastructure hearings, with three planned for next week, including one on broadband specifically.
The series kicks off with Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), chair of the Communications Subcommittee, presiding over "Rebuilding Infrastructure in America: Investing in Next-Generation Broadband” on March 13 at 10 a.m., followed by a transportation infrastructure hearing in the afternoon in the Surface Transportation Subcommittee, then a March 14 hearing in the full committee with the secretaries of Transportation and Commerce providing their perspectives on roads, bridges and the infohighway.
Witnesses for the broadband hearing are Gary Resnick, Mayor, Wilton Manors, Fla., and former chair of the FCC’s Intergovernmental Advisory Committee under Democratic chair Tom Wheeler; Steve Berry, CEO, Competitive Carriers Association; Bob DeBroux, VP of regulatory affairs, TDS Telecom; Brad Gillen, EVP, CTIA – The Wireless Association; and Mr. Mike Romano, SVP for policy, NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association.
“These hearings will help guide our efforts to write bipartisan infrastructure legislation meeting the needs of our communities across the country,” said Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chair of the Commerce Committee. “Senators Wicker and Fischer will kick off our consideration of infrastructure with expert testimony on the state of the nation’s surface transportation network as well as ways opportunities to close the digital divide by connecting more Americans to the internet. These subcommittee hearings will inform our bipartisan conversation with Secretary Chao and Secretary Ross on how the administration’s proposal would align federal resources with our most pressing infrastructure needs.”
President Donald Trump has earmarked $50 billion of his $200 billion infrastructure seed money for rural infrastructure upgrades, but has not designated any of that specifically to closing the rural broadband divide even though he told a farmers' group in January that that was a big priority.
Democrats, by contrast, have offered up a bill that would earmark $40 billion for broadband buildouts/upgrades.