Senate Commerce Committee Approves Three Broadband Bills

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation signed off on three broadband bills during a Nov. 18 business meeting.

The three bills are the Internet Exchange Act of 2019, the Ensuring Network Security Act, and the Beat China by Harnessing Important, National Airwaves (CHINA) for 5G Act of 2020.

The Internet Exchange Act of 2019, sponsored by Sens. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., and Roy Blunt, R-Mo., is intended to help to improve internet access for consumers, especially those in rural areas.

The bill would accomplish that goal by authorizing matching grants to be administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce, to help establish new Internet Exchange (IX) facilities where none exist, or to help an existing one expand if it is the only IX facility in a core-based statistical area and by permitting eligible recipients under the E-Rate program (for schools and libraries) and telehealth program to use such funds to contract with a broadband provider to obtain a connection to an IX facility, or to pay for the costs of maintaining a point of presence at an IX facility.

The legislation has a companion bill in the House.

The Ensuring Network Security Act, sponsored by Sens. Gary Peters, D-Mich., Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and Roy Blunt, R-Mo., would expand the pool of communications service providers who could apply for Federal government funding to remove and replace network equipment made by firms the government judges to be “untrusted,” such as China-based Huawei and ZTE.

The bill would build upon the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act of 2019, which was signed into law earlier this year and created a funding program to reimburse telecommunications providers with fewer than two million customers when they replace untrusted network equipment.

There is an identical bill currently making its way through the House.

The Beat China by Harnessing Important, National Airwaves (CHINA) for 5G Act of 2020, sponsored by Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and John Thune, R-S.D., would empower the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to open more critical mid-band spectrum for non-federal, commercial wireless use by requiring the FCC to begin an auction of the 3.45-3.55 GHz band by December 2021.

The legislation has a companion bill in the House.

Kate Polit
About Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs