As President Trump urged members of Congress this week to begin work on his ten-year, $1 trillion proposal to upgrade the nation’s roadways and other critical infrastructure, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) wrote to the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate Commerce and House Energy & Commerce Committees on Tuesday to seek their support in prioritizing “broadband in any infrastructure bill through a $100 billion program that includes direct funding, tax incentives, support to schools and libraries, and digital inclusion initiatives.”
In its letter, the CWA observed that, while the United States “has made much progress over the past decade spurring investment in high-speed networks,” the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development recently ranked the U.S. in 16th place worldwide in terms of broadband access and 13th place worldwide in terms of average available broadband speeds. Although gigabit-speed networks “are fast becoming the global standard for broadband,” the CWA further noted that more than half of U.S. households still “lack competitive choice for high-speed broadband.”
To ensure that “every community in our nation has access to this critical infrastructure,” the CWA advised the committee leaders that any legislation developed in response to Trump’s proposed infrastructure initiative should allocate$100 billion for broadband network development. Specifically, the CWA recommended that such a bill should include (1) $40 billion in direct funding to accelerate broadband deployment to unserved communities, (2) tax incentives, such as accelerated depreciation schedules for broadband-related capital expenditures and targeted tax credits for fiber network deployment to low-income areas, that would “spur investment in next-generation gigabit networks,” and (3) digital inclusion initiatives that include implementation of a $100 per year tax credit for low income families that purchase broadband service. The CWA also endorsed $10 billion in additional funding to supplement the FCC E-Rate program, which supports the expansion of broadband connectivity to schools and libraries. Describing high-speed Internet services as “the foundation for . . . full participation in our society,” the CWA told the lawmakers that it “joins the growing bipartisan support chorus in support of funding broadband” as part of an infrastructure bill.