Reps. Tim Walberg, R-Mich., and Peter Welch, D-Vt., have joined with Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., to introduce the Proper Leadership to Align Networks (PLAN) for Broadband Act, which calls on President Biden to develop a national broadband strategy.

The legislation comes after a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report revealed that Federal broadband expansion efforts are overwhelming and overlapping, with over 100 Federal broadband programs in operation – and administered by 15 agencies. Despite these numerous programs and a Federal investment of $44 billion from 2015 through 2020, GAO said millions of Americans still lack reliable broadband service.

“Closing the digital divide is one of Congress’ top priorities, but we cannot achieve that goal if our programs are mismanaged and lack coordination,” Sen. Wicker said in a press release. “A national broadband strategy will ensure our agencies are synchronized and manage these programs effectively to make sure that more Americans gain access to high-speed broadband.”

The PLAN for Broadband Act calls on President Biden to deliver a strategy to close the digital divide that will support better management of Federal broadband programs, synchronize interagency coordination, and “reduce barriers, lower costs, and ease administrative burdens for state, local, and tribal governments to participate in Federal broadband programs.”

If it becomes law, the legislation gives President Biden one year after its enactment to develop – in consultation with agency heads – a national broadband strategy and submit it to Congress.

“Whether it’s preventing an entrepreneur from starting an online business, hindering students’ ability to complete their homework, or limiting families’ ability to seek telehealth, New Mexicans know the difference between fast internet, slow internet, and no internet,” said Sen. Luján.

“I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation that will help improve coordination between Federal agencies and local and Tribal governments to deliver on the funding we made available to build high-speed, affordable broadband,” he added.

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk SLG's Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.