On August 10, the U.S. Senate passed H.R.3684, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act by a bipartisan vote of 69-30. The passage advances a signature part of President Biden’s agenda and a bipartisan priority of many years. The main features of the bill would rebuild the nation’s deteriorating infrastructure, finance climate resiliency, and facilitate broadband projects.
The bill’s $550 billion expenditure is organized into a few key components. Top categories of spending include:
- $110 billion for roads, bridges, and highways;
- $105 billion in water systems infrastructure and resiliency;
- $66 billion for rail (esp. Amtrak);
- $65 billion for broadband projects;
- $65 billion for the national electricity grid;
- $42 billion for ports and airports;
- $39 billion for public transit projects;
- $21 billion for environmental remediation; and
- $15 billion for electric and low emission vehicles and electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
The $550 billion total – part of which redirects existing COVID-related relief along with new appropriations – constitutes less than what Biden sought in his initial proposal. However, the bill still represents Congress’ most significant investment in years.
Though the bulk of funds are destined for transportation and utility infrastructure, there is still much of interest to the tech industry. Several areas may directly or indirectly support greater spending on tech or take consequential regulatory steps.
Prior to the bill’s amendments, President Biden had sought $100 billion to ensure broadband access for 30 million Americans without adequate connectivity. This target was reduced to $65 billion in the final bill. Even with this decreased value, the plan is still a significant leap forward for lowering internet service costs and bolstering access and competition in new areas.
- $42.45 billion for the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), especially for unserved and underserved locations, with standards of not less than 100mbps downloads and 20mbps uploads;
- $14.2 billion for the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Affordable Connectivity Fund, extending an emergency program adopted in response to COVID-19;
- $2.75 billion under the Digital Equity Act, administered by NTIA, that would make grants to states to promote access to broadband, digital literacy, and digital inclusion;
- $2 billion for the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program administered by NTIA;
- $2 billion for broadband loans and grants under the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Services, supporting distance learning and telemedicine;
- $1 billion for competitive grants administered by NTIA to improve “middle mile” connectivity, including to community anchor institutions.
Additionally, the Act would require the FCC to promulgate regulations requiring the display of consumer labels on broadband internet access service plan rates, and to adopt rules for preventing digital discrimination in access to broadband.
While much smaller in magnitude, there are significant funds appropriated to support cybersecurity, especially in the energy sector.
- $1 billion in grants administered by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for state, local, and tribal governments to improve the cybersecurity of critical infrastructure;
- $250 million for the Department of Energy (DOE) to launch a Cybersecurity Initiative for the Energy Sector Research, Development, and Demonstration Program;
- $250 million for a DOE Rural and Municipal Utility Advanced Cybersecurity Grant and Technical Assistance Program;
- $157 million for research and development by the DHS Science and Technology Directorate relating to resiliency and cybersecurity;
- $100 million for a Cybersecurity Response and Recovery Fund overseen by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA);
- $50 million for the DOE’s Energy Sector Operational Support and Cyber-resilience Program.
The bill would also create a number of consequential authorities with respect to cyber, inclusive of providing $21 million for a new Office of the National Cyber Director, enhancing the incident response powers of CISA, and increasing cyber risk management oversight in the transportation sector by the Department of Transportation.
As part of provisions on climate change and surface transportation, the bill would provide a combined $7.5 billion for charging and fueling infrastructure used by electric and alternative fuel vehicles.
- $5 billion to carry out a National Electric Vehicle Formula Program in the form of grants to states by the Federal Highway Administration Highway Infrastructure Program;
- $2.5 billion in federal grants authorized from the Highway Trust Fund relating to electric vehicle charging and hydrogen, propane, and natural gas fuelling corridors under the 2015 FAST Act.
Cryptocurrency and digital asset stakeholders are also concerned by a provision to expand tax reporting requirements relating to trading in digital financial assets, specifically by broadening the definition of “broker”. While proponents feel it is necessary to ensure proper reporting and taxing of trades in these assets, detractors argue that this definition is too broad and will sweep in parties such as individual crypto miners who would be unable to comply with requirements.
While a strong bipartisan priority, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act enters a crowded field of major spending measures under consideration by Congress, including the bipartisan U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA), already passed by the Senate, a $3.5 trillion budget resolution before the House containing Democratic spending priorities, an end of year omnibus spending bill, and the must-pass annual National Defense Authorization Act, among others.
After Congress returns from its August recess, the bill will move from the Senate to the House, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi is reported to be considering three options for the bill.
- Center-Left Democrats are urging Speaker Pelosi to introduce and vote on the bill early before the more controversial $3.5 trillion package. This is opposed by many progressives among House Democrats, who are refusing to vote on each bill separately before consideration of the larger $3.5 trillion package.
- Pelosi can also pass both bills in tandem. However, this option is exceedingly difficult because of Republican opposition to further increasing the national deficit.
- If Pelosi cannot appease either progressives or Republican groups, she can propose amending the package altogether. This option risks sending the bill back to the Senate and further delay.
If Pelosi’s efforts succeed and the bill is passed through the House, the Treasury Department will then determine fund regulations and interpret language for allocating each appropriation so that designated agencies can begin administering. This will initiate the years-long process of setting up and spending the money.
With a narrow window of opportunity to shape the final package and its future implementation, companies with a stake in funding should consider taking several steps:
- Articulate the sales enablement business case for lobbying engagement to your corporate C-suite.
- Gather intelligence among House leadership to determine likely end game scenarios, trade bait, and sticking points;
- Review and understand the bill and detailed funding tables in depth;
- Suggest improvements to the Senate bill to House members who may be in a position to craft a House companion bill or amend the Senate bill;
- Liaise with champions in the House to ensure favored positions are maintained during House & Senate conference negotiations;
- Stress the importance of key provisions by quantifying the economic and jobs impact to the states and districts of key members and conferees.