The Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill Draws Directly on Bennet’s BRIDGE Act to Make Largest Broadband Investment in U.S. History
Washington, D.C. – Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet released the following statement highlighting the historic $65 billion of broadband funding in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), which draws directly on the bipartisan BRIDGE Act he authored and released in June with U.S. Senators Angus King (I-Maine) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio).
“We are on the cusp of making the largest ever investment in affordable, high-speed broadband in U.S. history, and Colorado led the way,” said Bennet. “The infrastructure package now heading to the President’s desk draws directly on the bipartisan bill I wrote to reflect Colorado’s challenges with broadband networks that are often too slow, unreliable, or expensive to meet the needs of Coloradans today. This new funding says that we don’t have to accept a country where any American is shut out of the broadband access they need to compete and thrive in the 21st century.”
The IIJA provides $65 billion in new funding to promote broadband access, the largest portion of which is over $40 billion in block grants for states to deploy affordable, high-speed networks and support a range of initiatives to bridge the digital divide. This provision draws directly from the bipartisan BRIDGE Act Senator Bennet introduced in June with Senators King and Portman. Like the BRIDGE Act, IIJA requires new broadband networks to meet higher minimum standards, such as providing a download speed of at least 100 megabits per second, while prioritizing even faster, gigabit-speed networks. This turns the page on decades of federal policy that has subsidized the deployment of slow, outdated networks in many rural and mountain communities, relegating them to sub-standard service that stifles opportunity. Also mirroring the BRIDGE Act, IIJA requires new networks to provide at least one affordable option for low-income families. IIJA also provides over $2 billion in funding for Tribal governments, mirroring another key provision of Senator Bennet’s bill.
Senator Bennet has been a strong advocate for expanding affordable, high-speed broadband in Colorado and across the country. In March, Senator Bennet led a bipartisan letter with his Senate colleagues urging the Biden administration to update the speeds and standards for high-speed broadband across federal agencies. Last month, USDA’s ReConnect program announced that it would dramatically increase its minimum speeds and standards in line with the senator’s recommendation. During the pandemic, Bennet also consistently called for more funding and flexibility for the FCC’s E-Rate program to connect low-income students online and helped secure more than $7 billion to close the digital divide for students nationwide in the American Rescue Plan.
“The bipartisan infrastructure bill provides the long-sought resources to close the digital divide. Finally, Americans in unserved rural areas as well as low-income Americans will be able to experience the benefits of high-speed internet connections. Sen. Bennet has been a leader in the effort to bridge the digital divide and many of his ideas are incorporated into the bill President Biden will sign,” said Tom Wheeler, former Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.
“The passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is a bipartisan victory that should be celebrated in neighborhoods both urban and rural. Done right, the Infrastructure Act has the potential to bring future proof networks that support an all of the above deployment strategy for wired, wireless and 5G services. Building faster, more affordable networks, powered by competition and innovation will help families and small businesses work, learn and thrive. “I wish to congratulate and commend the bipartisan trio of Senators Bennet, King and Portman who constructed a smart and flexible plan to bring faster, more affordable speed service to communities united in their quest for better broadband services,” said Mignon Clyburn, co-chair of BroadLand, and a former Democratic Commissioner for the FCC,” said Mignon Clyburn, co-chair of BroadLand, and a former Commissioner for the Federal Communications Commission.
“The future of our broadband networks will determine the future of our nation. With gigabit speed preferences for 5G ready networks, the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act sends a strong message to the rest of the world that the United States will indeed be ready for the jobs of tomorrow. I want to thank Senators Bennet, King and Portman for their leadership. Building faster, future-proof broadband opens more possibilities for innovation and investment, and it’s refreshing to see bipartisan leaders uniting around bold broadband goals,” said Chip Pickering, CEO of INCOMPAS/BroadLand co-chair, and a former Republican Member of Congress from Mississippi.
“The passage of the Bipartisan infrastructure and Investment and Jobs Act will greatly benefit all Colorado communities. As we learned during the pandemic, access to broadband is essential for all Coloradans—for education, health care, economic development, and more. That’s why I particularly appreciate that Sen. Bennet’s BRIDGE Act was included in the infrastructure bill, and will provide a major boost in broadband funding that will produce far greater broadband speeds for Colorado towns throughout the plains and mountains. I look forward to working hard to implement this bill and bringing its benefits to all of Colorado,” said Colorado Attorney General Weiser.
“The Fiber Broadband Association applauds Congress for passing the Bipartisan Infrastructure package and taking the historic and necessary step to invest into our nations’ broadband infrastructure. Senators Bennet, King and Portman provided the broadband foundation for this bill when they introduced the bipartisan BRIDGE Act and we applaud their leadership and their staff’s dedication to help drive our nation forward. The pandemic illuminated the critical need for ubiquitous and robust broadband availability, affordability, and adoption as it is a foundation for job creation, economic development, remote learning, virtual workforces, and telehealth services. This investment in broadband enables the nation to embrace digital equity for generations to come,” said Gary Bolton, President and CEO, Fiber Broadband Association.
“The Colorado Communications and Utility Alliance appreciates Senator Bennet’s groundbreaking work on the BRIDGE Act, which has become the foundation for the broadband funding in the Infrastructure Act. We are grateful for all Members of Congress who supported the Infrastructure Act and we look forward to seeing these critical resources spent in Colorado to close the digital divide where these new and improved networks are most needed,” said Kit Lammers, President, Colorado Communications and Utility Alliance.
“The passage of the bill represents a victory for Colorado’s counties. These funds will help rebuild and expand our state’s infrastructure and economy by investing in locally owned infrastructure and preserving local decision-making, which is very important to our member counties,” said John Swartout, Executive Director, Colorado Counties, Inc.
“In nearly a decade assisting local governments tailor local solutions to improve broadband across the Western Slope of Colorado, NWCCOG thanks Senator Bennet and others in the delegation who fought for Congress to make its largest investment in broadband infrastructure ever. Finally prioritizing higher-speed solutions above the low-bar lobbied by industry for years is another major breakthrough,” said Jon Stavney, Executive Director, Northwest Colorado Council of Governments.
“The pandemic has put a spotlight on longstanding broadband concerns in rural communities and we are grateful for Senator Bennett’s commitment to ensuring that all students have reliable high speed connections regardless of their zip code. These critical federal dollars should go a long way towards advancing Colorado’s ongoing work to expand access throughout the State,” said Michelle Murphy, Executive Director, Colorado Rural Schools Alliance.
“Rocky Mountain Farmers Union is thrilled to see provisions from Senator Bennet’s Bridge Act incorporated into this bipartisan infrastructure package. This vital piece of legislation will close the digital divide and allow farmers and ranchers to implement climate-smart practices backed up by data, diagnose and repair their equipment, and compete in markets both locally and abroad. Families now depend on reliable, fast-paced internet for school and work. These provisions ensure these families are not left behind. We thank Senator Bennet for his ongoing efforts to provide the rural residents of our state the resources to thrive,” said Dale McCall, President, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union.
"The Southwest Colorado Council of Governments is excited about the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act with support of rural broadband development. This legislation will help rural areas, like southwest Colorado, access capital to create future-facing broadband networks, including higher standards for minimum speeds. The SWCCOG applauds Senator Bennet for the bipartisan BRIDGE Act that was the foundation for the broadband section of the Infrastructure Bill. The SWCCOG is looking forward to engaging to continue to support the broadband development in Colorado through the principals and funding in the IIJA," said Miriam Gillow-Wiles, Executive Director, Southwest Colorado Council of Governments.
"The Members of the Colorado Forum have been diligently working to achieve the expansion of reliable and affordable broadband for our rural and Native American communities. The passage of the infrastructure bill that incorporates the language of Senator Bennet’s outstanding Bridge Act, will help to expand access to robust broadband for all Coloradans. We are grateful to Senator Bennet for his excellent work to achieve this important goal," said Gail Klapper, President, Colorado Forum.