Relief Bill Has $7 Billion to Expand Broadband, Thwart Huawei

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The pandemic relief bill moving through Congress calls for $7 billion in spending on broadband internet, including $3.2 billion to help poor households pay for the service and $1.9 billion to boost security by removing gear from equipment providers such as Huawei Technologies Co.

The funding will “help millions of students, families and unemployed workers afford the broadband they need during the pandemic,” leading Democrats, Senator Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said in a statement.

The measure includes $3.2 billion to help connect low-income households to broadband, said a person briefed on the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because the bill hadn’t been released.

The “historic” bill sets out monthly payments of $50 to poor households that are home to the recently unemployed, said Gigi Sohn, a distinguished fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy.

“The United States Congress, with bipartisan support, has recognized that high-speed broadband internet in the home is essential for full participation in American society,” Sohn said.

Two people briefed on the matter said the bill includes $1.9 billion in funding to help remove equipment from companies deemed a threat to national security. U.S. regulators have included Huawei and ZTE Corp. in that category, saying their gear could be used for spying. The companies, both based in Shenzhen, China, deny that assertion.

The Federal Communications Commission on Dec. 10 ordered carriers to remove network equipment from suspect companies, and set up a reimbursement program that is to use funding provided by Congress.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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