Monday, August 15, 2022

PLAN for Broadband Act Addresses Funding Coordination Concerns

On August 4, Senators Roger Wicker and Ben Ray Lujan introduced the Proper Leadership to Align Networks (PLAN) for Broadband Act. That same day, a companion bill was introduced in the House by Representatives Tim Walberg and Peter Welch. The PLAN for Broadband Act would require the President, in consult with the heads of several federal agencies, to develop a "National Strategy to Close the Digital Divide" as well as an "Implementation Plan." Under the Act, the National Strategy would have to be submitted to Congress within one year of the legislation's enactment, and the Implementation Plan would have to be submitted to Congress 120 days later. 

The PLAN for Broadband Act was prompted by a May 2022 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) titled "Broadband: National Strategy Needed to Guide Federal Efforts to Reduce Digital Divide." As Free State Foundation Senior Fellow Andrew Long explained in a June 14 blog post, the GAO report warned about significant wasteful duplication of funding and effort to increase broadband access that could result from the lack of coordination among over 133 broadband access-related funding programs under the purview of 15 different agencies. To address this concern, the GAO report recommended that the Executive Office of the President develop and implement a national broadband strategy. 

The sponsors of the PLAN for Broadband Act deserve credit for calling attention to the issue of duplicative wasteful spending and for seeking to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of federal efforts to close the digital divide. In the meantime, nothing ought to prohibit federal agency heads from closely coordinating their efforts to expand broadband access to all Americans and to protect taxpayer dollars from being wasted.