The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation advanced a number of bipartisan bills out of committee in an executive session today including four with tech implications. Those bills are a telecommunications workforce bill, one on tech research, one that would map broadband connectivity and maternal health outcomes, and another to protect victims of domestic violence.

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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.

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broadband

Have you ever wondered just how fast your broadband service really is? The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a press release today reiterating that it wants the public to find out the answer to that question by downloading its “FCC Speed App.” The app allows consumers to measure the speed of their mobile and in-home broadband networks, while also contributing data to the FCC’s Measuring Broadband America program.

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broadband

The Biden administration is proposing that the Federal government take a giant leap into the national broadband service market – traditionally the province of the private sector – in order to close persistent service availability and affordability gaps across the United States.

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broadband

The demand for reliable and affordable broadband service has skyrocketed in the last year as Americans began relying on the internet for telework, distancing learning, and telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, many Americans – both urban and rural – have lacked either access or sufficient connection strength during the health crisis.

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Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., introduced a $94 billion Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act in the House and Senate, respectively. The bill also has the support of Clyburn’s Rural Broadband Task Force, composed of 27 House Democrats.

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FCC

The Federal Communications Commission has voted to formally adopt a Report and Order that establishes the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program. The program uses $3.2 billion in Federal funding to provide qualifying households discounts on their internet service bills and an opportunity to receive a discount on a computer or tablet.

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Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., are introducing legislation that will provide up to $15 billion in matching grants to increase access to broadband services in areas of the United States that are unserved by broadband meeting the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) minimum definition of that service.

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Space NASA Satellites

The Department of Defense (DoD) has issued a request for information (RFI) searching for 5G technologies to support space data transport.

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Members of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology agreed at a Feb. 17 hearing that the COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed the “equity gap” in broadband access, and called for both expanding service access in rural areas of the United States, and creating more affordable service access in urban areas of the country.

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Budget Federal spending

The Federal Communications Commission is seeking public comment on how to best distribute $3.2 billion of funding approved by Congress late last month as part of combined FY 2021 government funding and COVID-19 relief legislation to help low-income Americans access internet services.

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After months with no movement and a weekend full of deal-making, Congress is expected to pass a $900 billion COVID-19 relief package as part of a broader Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) omnibus spending bill. The relief includes a new round of Payment Protection Program (PPP) funding, money for broadband deployment and emergency use, and money to remove banned Huawei and ZTE equipment.

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The $908 billion emergency COVID relief package debuted Dec. 14 by a bipartisan group of senators proposed another big round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) work for the Small Business Administration (SBA), along with a $10 billion lifeline for broadband connectivity and distance learning programs.

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The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) issued a Dec. 8 report on the agency’s progress moving its telecom services contracts from legacy Networx agreements to Enterprise Information Solutions (EIS) contracts.

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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) needs to gather additional data on how its program that helps ensure universal access to broadband service in rural, remote, and other areas of the country is working, and data to help drive decisions on effective use of available funds, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report said.

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5G wireless infrastructure technology

Federal and local government officials are licking their chops over a wide variety of new services – and improvements on existing ones – that 5G wireless infrastructure and services will allow them to bring to citizens, but also cautioned that a lot of work remains to be done on the to get to those goals.

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