The proposed Broadband Census Bill (H.R. 3919) was approved on Tuesday by the US House Energy and Commerce Committee. The main goal of the legislation is to collect data about broadband availability throughout the US and use that data to generate a searchable map that will provide consumers with information on what is available in their areas, and also provide the base for grant programs to expand and improve broadband service. The plan in the most recent draft of the bill was to map to the 9-digit ZIP code level or census tract level, with data on demographics, broadband providers, types of technology used, and bandwidth tiers. The funding for the census is currently requested as $12 million per fiscal year for 2008, 2009, and 2010.
In addition, the proposed grant program includes $300 million in funding for a number of goals related to expanding and improving broadband access. The bill was only referred to the committee on Oct 22nd, so that is pretty quick action. I believe the bill will move to the full House now, but there’s nothing on the schedule yet as to when it might come up for debate and vote.
This would be an important step in helping many areas catch up in terms of Internet access, so write to your Congressmen to express support for this bill. If you would like to see what the bill includes, here is a nice summary.