New bill aims to strengthen internet funding safeguards

A bipartisan Senate bill expected to be introduced Tuesday would require federal regulators to more thoroughly vet internet service providers seeking government money.

Driving the news: The Rural Broadband Protection Act, from Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), shared exclusively with Axios, would require the FCC to develop rules to make sure funding goes to companies that have the technical capability to deliver the broadband service they promise.

  • The FCC vets companies that are set to receive broadband subsidies, but the lawmakers say the scrutiny should come earlier in the funding process.
  • Capito has previously raised concerns about the ability of internet service providers to meet their funding obligations in her rural state.

Context: A group of lawmakers last year called on the FCC to thoroughly scrutinize the providers who received funding from the $9 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund program.

What they’re saying: “By verifying that providers can actually deliver on the promises made to bring high-speed internet to specific areas, we can maximize the influx of broadband dollars coming to West Virginia and move closer toward our goal of closing the digital divide in communities of all sizes across our state,” Capito said in a statement.