US relief package provides $7 billion for broadband2020-12-21 17:20 by Daniela
Congress' latest COVID-19 relief bill provides $7 billion in funding for broadband connectivity and infrastructure. That figure includes $3.2 billion for a $50-per-month emergency broadband benefit for people who are laid off or furloughed during the pandemic, according to a press release from Sen. Ron Wyden's (D-OR) office on Sunday.
The rest of the bill is mixed. It devotes $1 billion to Tribal broadband initiatives. About $300 million would go to rural broadband, $285 million would back a broadband pilot for communities near historically Black colleges, $250 million would go to the FCC's telehealth push and $65 million would aid broadband mapping. Notably, $1.9 billion is slated for replacing Huawei and ZTE equipment — this isn't strictly about improving access.
Notably, U.S. lawmakers will also back $1.9 billion to fund a program to remove telecom network equipment that the U.S. government says poses national security risks as part of a $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill, two sources briefed on the matter said on Sunday.
There's no certainty the $7 billion will be enough to sustain broadband through 2021 and the (hopeful) pandemic recovery. It could deliver internet access for those that need it most, though, and some of the projects could lay the groundwork for future broadband rollouts.
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