By Amir Nasr
January 24, 2017 at 3:25 pm ET
Senate Democrats included $20 billion to expand broadband access in their $1 trillion infrastructure plan introduced on Tuesday. It’s a tech proposal that could get support from key GOP senators, but the challenge lies in covering the cost of any spending plan.
Investing in broadband as part of a broader infrastructure package is backed by Wilbur Ross, President Donald Trump’s nominee for commerce secretary, and supported by Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune.
Thune told reporters on Tuesday that while he hadn’t yet looked at the Democratic plan, he’s a “big believer” that the definition of infrastructure should include broadband.
Likewise, Ross told lawmakers at his confirmation hearing last week that he believes broadband buildout is an “essential part” of infrastructure. The Senate Commerce Committee approved his nomination by voice vote on Tuesday.
When asked on Tuesday how money would be allotted for the expansion of broadband, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters on Capitol Hill that the plans are still just “a blueprint,” and that Democrats will now start “filling in the details.”
Expanding broadband and investing in smart infrastructure is a key priority for the tech industry. Doug Brake, a telecom policy analyst with the Washington-based Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, said Tuesday in an email to Morning Consult that broadband should “absolutely” be included in an infrastructure package.