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US Senate greenlights $1T infrastructure bill

The US Senate on Tuesday passed a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that includes about $65 billion in funds earmarked for broadband, including dollars to help low-income Americans pay for broadband services.

That legislation, the "Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act," which also includes dollars for roads and highways, ports, bridges, the power grid and other US infrastructure, passed the Senate in a 69-30 vote following a months-long debate seeking common ground. Nineteen Senate Republicans, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), voted to pass the bill.

Tuesday's vote also arrived about five months after Biden first proposed a $2 trillion infrastructure focused "American Jobs Plan" that included an outlay of $100 billion for bringing affordable and reliable broadband to all areas.

The legislation is not yet a done deal, as it must also clear the House. According to The Washington Post, some Democrats are concerned that the current form of legislation doesn't do enough.

Some of the performance-facing aspects of the broadband-facing elements of the bill appears to be good news for wireless operators and cable operators.

The set minimum speeds of 100 Mbit/s downstream and at least 20 Mbit/s upstream falls well within the current capabilities of most DOCSIS 3.0 and 3.1 networks and provides lots of headroom for DOCSIS 4.0, a new set of CableLabs specs that target speeds up to 10 Gbit/s downstream and 6 Gbit/s in the upstream. Those speed parameters should also quiet alarms about having to push forward quickly with major upstream capacity upgrades that can deliver speeds up to 1 Gbit/s.

Michael Powell, president and CEO of the NCTA – The Internet & Television Association, applauded the Senate's approval of a program that prioritizes the building of Internet service in unserved areas and plans for a stronger government program to help low-income Americans.

"Our industry looks forward to being a productive partner in the effort to close existing digital gaps and to continuing our ongoing investment in networks that will speed our country on the path to 10-gigabit speeds," Powell said in a statement. "This legislation is the result of significant compromises and we would like to thank the bipartisan group of Senators who worked diligently to develop this important legislation and urge the House to swiftly pass this package."

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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