Government Relations Update October 2022
By Matthew Hall Internet2 External Relations Program Manager
President Signs Continuing Resolution
On September 30, the president signed a continuing resolution (P.L. 117-180) extending federal funding past the end of the 2022 fiscal year. This legislation provides funding for all federal agencies at 2022 fiscal year levels through December 16. This short-term funding bill does not include any major changes or new policies, though it does include the addition of provisions funding the U.S. military’s ongoing efforts in supporting Ukraine. Congress will have to revisit the issue of federal funding soon after the upcoming midterm elections in order to avoid a government shutdown and ensure that federal operations are funded for the remainder of the 2023 fiscal year.
Bipartisan Bill on Taxing of Broadband Grants Introduced
Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Jerry Moran (R-KS), joined by Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Rev. Raphael Warnock (D-GA), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), introduced the Broadband Tax Treatment Act (BGTTA) (S. 5021) on September 29. The bill aims to prevent broadband grants made under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and the American Rescue Plan (ARP) from being considered as taxable income. In a press release accompanying the bill’s introduction, the sponsoring senators shared their concerns that leaving this issue unaddressed would blunt the impact of federal broadband grants by not allowing the full force of the awarded funds to go into the projects they were intended to support.
It is possible that this legislation will not be taken up before the end of the year due to the limited legislative time remaining and may need to be re-introduced when the new Congress is sworn in next year.
Application Window for Middle Mile Program Closes
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) ceased to accept applications for its new Middle Mile Grant Program on September 30. The agency began accepting applications for the $1 billion program on June 21, 2022. NTIA announced on October 4 that applicants submitted more than 235 applications totaling more than $5.5 billion in funding requests. As the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) outlines, the goal is for the review and selection of successful applicants to be completed by February 16, 2023, with start of awards being announced happening no earlier than March 1, 2023.
FCC Announces New Tribal E-Rate Pilot
On October 20, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced the formal launch of a new pilot program intended to assist Tribal libraries in applying for broadband funding through the E-Rate program. The pilot program will focus initially on 20 Tribal libraries that are either new to E-Rate or have had trouble applying in the past. The program will provide one-on-one help to cover all aspects of planning and applying for E-Rate, as well as continuing support after the application process. The program may be expanded depending on lessons learned from this initial phase. Applications to participate in the pilot are due by November 18, 2022. Additional information, including how to apply, is available.