The bill, officially released late Sunday evening, includes the Digital Equity Act that seeks to expand broadband to American communities that currently lack access to the Internet due to either poverty, dilapidated infrastructure, or their geographical location such as rural communities.
As part of the plan, the Department of Commerce would set up a grant program to states to fund broadband expansion. The grants would be divided up using this formula:
50 percent of the total grant amount shall be based on the population of the eligible State in proportion to the total population of all eligible States.
25 percent of the total grant amount shall be based on the number of individuals in the eligible State who are members of covered populations in proportion to the total number of individuals in all eligible States who are members of covered populations.
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25 percent of the total grant amount shall be based on the comparative lack of availability and adoption of broadband in the eligible State in proportion to the lack of availability and adoption of broadband of all eligible States…
In the terms section of the bill, a “covered population” means anyone who is considered an “aging individual, a prison inmate excluding those in federal prison, a veteran, an individual with disabilities, an individual with a language barrier, and anyone who is a member of a racial or ethnic minority.”
This indicates that 25 percent of the total grant money in the program to help a state expand broadband access will be partially based on how many nonwhite residents, newly arrived immigrants who struggle speaking English, and prison inmates a community has.
The bill was crafted by nine Senate Republicans and a group of Senate Democrats. The Senate Republicans include Richard Burr (R-NC), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Rob Portman (R-OH), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Mike Rounds (R-SD), and Thom Tillis (R-NC).
Meanwhile, 18 Senate Republicans supported advancing the bill through the Senate without ever reading the legislation’s final draft, including Roy Blunt (R-MO), Richard Burr (R-NC), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Rob Portman (R-OH), Jim Risch (R-ID), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Todd Young (R-IN), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), John Hoeven (R-ND), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Mike Rounds (R-SD).