In response to President Biden’s introduction of the American Jobs Plan, a long overdue and critically necessary investment in America’s crumbling infrastructure, Republican lawmakers criticized the package and newly narrowed their definition of infrastructure to exclude broadband.
Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)
- “Flooding the country with federal dollars in the name of universal broadband, universal pay, universal stimulus, universal healthcare or any other universal fill-in-the-blank policies [will waste taxpayer funds].” [The Wall Street Journal, 4/1/21]
Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS)
- “The President’s broadband proposal opens the door for duplication and overbuilding. The FCC should complete its work to develop accurate and detailed broadband maps to identify unserved areas. Spending $100 billion without these maps will lead to a massive waste of taxpayer dollars.” [Republican Leader, 3/31/21]
Despite their objections, Congressional Republicans have a long record of classifying investments in broadband as infrastructure.
Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)
- “With 39 percent of rural Americans living with insufficient access to broadband internet, we need to focus on innovation, investment, and eliminating the barriers to deployment. The resolutions introduced today help lay the groundwork for more legislative action to come. Our work on broadband infrastructure could mean the difference between a child completing her homework at home, and her parents driving out to a library so she can connect to the public Wi-Fi.” [House Committee on Energy And Commerce, 1/11/18]
Senator Rob Portman (R-OH)
- “I think there are areas where we can do something. Rural broadband is very popular among many of my colleagues,” [The Hill, 6/17/20]
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA-23)
- “I think broadband is an appropriate discussion for us to have regardless of whether we’re doing an infrastructure bill or not,” [The Washington Times, 4/30/20]
Representatives Greg Walden (R-OR-02) and Bob Latta (R-OH-05)
- “The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that the Internet is more than just a helpful tool – it’s a lifeline to help Americans access health care, earn a living, receive an education, and more. All Americans, whether living in rural or urban communities, should have the opportunity to reap the benefits of staying connected, particularly when considering the economic advantage of reliable connectivity. We must do all that we can to expand access to broadband, bridge the digital divide, and close the homework gap. We are proud to lead this effort to encourage U.S. leadership and ensure Americans across local communities can access these vital services, and we thank our colleagues for partnering with us on this important agenda.” [House Committee on Energy And Commerce, 6/25/20]
Representative Greg Walden (R-OR-02)
- “More than 21 million Americans could not access broadband before COVID-19, and the pandemic has made even more clear how vital these services are as Americans work, learn, and receive health care from home.” [Press Release, 6/25/20]
Representative David McKinley (R-WV-01)
- “Across the country many rural communities lack high-quality broadband internet service. Access to high speed internet is essential in the 21st Century, particularly as homes are turned into offices and classrooms during the COVID-19 pandemic … [The Facilitating DIGITAL Applications Act] helps streamline the application process, essentially speeding up the deployment of broadband infrastructure.” [House Committee on Energy And Commerce, 7/1/20]
Representative John Curtis (R-UT-03)
- “Broadband access is crucial to education and employment opportunities and as we’ve seen during the pandemic, is critical to delivering healthcare to those in rural America.” [Press Release, 2/16/21]
Representative Morgan Griffith (R-VA-09)
- “Bridging the digital divide requires the deployment of more broadband infrastructure…This approach will contribute to building out more broadband and connecting more Americans, including those in rural communities.” [Press Release, 6/25/20]
Republicans in Congress have introduced a number of bills and resolutions to fund broadband infrastructure.
- Representative Leonard Lance (R-NJ-07) introduced a bill “to direct broadband infrastructure funding toward areas that are currently underserved.” [House Energy & Commerce Committee, 1/11/18]
- Representative Richard Hudson (R-NC-08) introduced a bill to “ensure wireless broadband infrastructure funding preference for states that support small cell sitting reform, helping ease the permitting process in communities across the country.” [House Energy & Commerce Committee, 1/11/18]
- Representative Gus Bilirakis (R-FL-12) introduced a bill to “ensure federal, state, and local tax, regulatory, permitting, and other requirements are coordinated and reconciles to maximize the benefits of broadband internet” [House Energy & Commerce Committee, 1/11/18]
Republican lawmakers previously listed “incorporating innovative developments in technology” as one of the Republican Infrastructure Principles.
The Bottom Line: Republican lawmakers agree that investments in broadband are investments in infrastructure. Congress has the opportunity to make these key investments and expand broadband access across the nation through the American Jobs Plan.