Capito introduces bipartisan GRID Broadband Act

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) recently unveiled a bipartisan bill that will help provide affordable high-speed internet options to the 120 million American households that lack connectivity, and aims to enhance the resiliency and security of the nation’s electrical grid. 

“In order to accomplish our goal of bringing reliable, high-speed internet access to every West Virginia community, we need to continue bringing solutions to the table,” Sen. Capito said. “Closing the digital divide is a bipartisan priority.”

Sen. Capito on Aug. 3 signed on as the lead original cosponsor of the Grants to Rapidly Invest and Deploy (GRID) Broadband Act of 2022, S. 4763, with bill sponsor Maria Cantwell (D-WA) to support the construction of middle-mile broadband infrastructure and enhance the electric grid, according to the text of the bill.

“The GRID Broadband Act would utilize our nation’s electric grid system to help build out and deploy broadband, especially in some of the most rural areas of West Virginia with little to no service,” said Sen. Capito.

If enacted, S. 4763 would task the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration with issuing competitive cost-shared federal grants to encourage the rapid development of a secure, nationwide broadband backbone on existing electric grid infrastructure, according to a bill summary provided by Sen. Capito’s staff.

Grant recipients would be required to use funding to improve cybersecurity and smart grid technology on their electrical grid infrastructure, as well as to increase middle-mile broadband capacity. They also must cover at least half of project costs, except for a qualifying not-for-profit utility or native entity that is providing access to underserved or unserved communities, the summary says.

“Building out fiber along our nation’s existing grid will provide the communications capacity needed to modernize our energy system, make our grid more cyber secure, and bring affordable high-speed internet to tens of millions of hard-to-reach households,” Sen. Cantwell said. “It’s a triple win solution for consumers because it leverages existing rights-of-way and private sector ingenuity and investment to deliver cleaner electricity, stronger cybersecurity, and more accessible broadband services.”

S. 4763 has been referred to the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee for consideration.