Bipartisan legislation introduced Wednesday by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV) would require the Secretary of Commerce, acting through the Bureau of Economic Analysis, to study the effects of broadband deployment on the U.S. economy. Unveiling the Measuring the Economic Impact of Broadband Act, Klobuchar and Capito—both co-chairs of the Senate Broadband Caucus—explained that, while the federal government routinely measures the economic impacts of many industries, “it does not produce current, reliable statistics on the economic impact of broadband.” As they stressed that such data could serve as “a valuable tool for policymakers,” Klobucher and Capito observed that legislative efforts to mandate such a study have been supported by various research institutions and state agencies and by trade groups that include wireless association CTIA, the Rural Broadband Association, and the Wireless Infrastructure Association.

As stated in a press release announcing the legislation, the Secretary of Commerce will be directed to “consider job creation, business headcount, online commerce, income, education and distance learning, telehealth, telework, agriculture, population growth, population density, broadband speed, and geography” in conducting the assessment. Data used in compiling the analysis is expected to come from “rural and urban Internet service providers, telecommunications infrastructure providers, state, local and tribal government agencies, and consumer and community organizations.” As Klobuchar predicted that the bill’s passage will “provide us with the reliable, publicly available economic data we need to make informed decisions about expanding broadband,” Capito proclaimed: “I’m proud to join with my partner on the Senate Broadband Caucus to introduce a bill that will help bridge the digital divide.”