Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) isn’t joining fellow rural state lawmakers in pushing for dedicated funding for broadband in the infrastructure package. (The White House confirmed Tuesday that it wouldn’t seek to set aside money for that purpose.) Blackburn, leader of the House Energy and Commerce telecom panel, told John in a recent interview she wants to focus on bills to streamline permitting and clear away regulations impeding new networks, and attach them to the infrastructure legislation. “I want to see how much bipartisan support we can end up building for simplifying this process,” she said. E&C Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) agreed: “Sometimes it’s more than just the money,” he said, arguing that FCC subsidies already provide billions of dollars for broadband and that the private sector is doing just fine.
But small telecoms from Blackburn’s home state say simply cutting red tape isn’t enough to close the urban-rural digital divide. “Money drives the network,” said Levoy Knowles, executive director of the Tennessee Telecommunications Association, citing estimates that the state needs well over $1 billion for broadband. “There has to be some dedicated money to close the gap.”
Source: POLITICO Morning Tech