Vol. 18, No. 12
March 21, 2022
Senate Passes Safe Connections Act
Last week, the Senate unanimously passed by voice vote, S. 120, the Safe Connections Act, bipartisan legislation authored by Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), which will help survivors of domestic violence and other crimes cut ties with their abusers and separate from shared wireless service plans, which can be exploited to monitor, stalk or control victims.
As survivors seek help and stabilize their lives, the Safe Connections Act would help them stay safe and connected by:
  • Allowing survivors to separate a mobile phone line from any shared plan involving an abuser without penalties or other requirements. This includes lines of any dependents in their care;
  • Requiring the FCC to initiate a rulemaking proceeding to seek comment on how to help survivors who separate from a shared plan enroll in the Lifeline Program for up to six-months as they become financially stable; and
  • Requiring the FCC to establish rules that would ensure any calls or texts to hotlines do not appear on call logs.
The Schatz-Fischer legislation is cosponsored by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.). The bill now heads to the U.S. House of Representatives for consideration.
House Holds Hearing on 5G: The Next Wireless Frontier
Last Wednesday, the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing titled, “5G and Beyond: Exploring the Next Wireless Frontier.” Witnesses included Scott Bergmann, senior vice president, Regulatory Affairs at CTIA; Mary L. Brown, senior director, Government Affairs at Cisco Systems, Inc.; Greg Guice, director of Government Affairs at Public Knowledge; Jayne Stancavage, global executive director, Product and Digital Infrastructure Policy at Intel Corporation; and Von Todd, chief executive of Corporate Strategy and Analytics, HTC Inc. and director, Competitive Carriers Association Board of Directors.

The witnesses pressed the government to maintain a steady supply of spectrum to meet the booming U.S. demand for wireless technology. The industry groups told the House E&C subcommittee that Congress, the FCC and Commerce Department’s NTIA all need to release new spectrum band, and that the U.S.'s finite spectrum supply, used for radio, satellite and wireless internet services, is increasingly crowded. Cellphone use in the U.S. has more than tripled since 2016, topping 42 trillion megabytes in 2020, according to a survey from CTIA released last year. The federal government has been forced to make tough decisions about access, including balancing the needs of aviation and cellphone companies in the rollout of 5G.
Senate Commerce Plans March 23 Hearing on Next Gen Tech
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, will convene a hearing titled, “Developing Next Generation Technology for Innovation” at 10 a.m. ET, Wednesday, March 23. The hearing will examine the correlation between American competitiveness and semiconductors; the impact of vulnerabilities in our semiconductor supply chains; and the importance of CHIPS legislation within the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) of 2021 and the America COMPETES Act of 2022. Witnesses include Pat Gelsinger, CEO of Intel Corporation, and Sanjay Mehrotra, CEO of Micron.
Wicker Calls for COVID-19 Broadband Spending Oversight
Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, wrote a letter urging the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC) to conduct an oversight review into pandemic-related spending to ensure broadband funds were used appropriately for assisting unserved communities and those economically affected by the pandemic.
In response to the need for broadband amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress created multiple broadband accessibility programs that allocated billions of dollars to assist Americans in their participation in remote activities. The CARES Act created the PRAC, within the Council of Inspectors General, to coordinate independent pandemic-related oversight. The PRAC is in the best position to review pandemic-related broadband spending, as multiple agencies are responsible for these programs.
NTIA to Host Pre-NOFO Technical Assistance Webinars
NTIA will host a pre-Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) technical assistance webinar series through May in connection with the five new broadband grant programs authorized and funded by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA): The Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program; the Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program; and the Digital Equity Act Programs, which include the State Digital Equity Planning Grant Program, State Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program, and Digital Equity Competitive Grant Program.

These pre-NOFO technical assistance webinars are designed to help prospective applicants understand NTIA’s IIJA broadband grant programs and to assist applicants to prepare high quality grant applications.

NTIA Webinar Schedule
  • Webinar #2: Wednesday, March 23, 2022, from 2:30 p.m.-4:00 p.m. ET
  • Webinar #3: Wednesday, April 6, 2022, from 2:30 p.m.-4:00 p.m. ET
  • Webinar #4: Wednesday, April 27, 2022, from 2:30 4:00 p.m. ET
  • Webinar #5: Wednesday, May 11, 2022, from 2:30 p.m.-4:00 p.m. ET.

These webinars will be hosted via NTIA’s virtual platform and conducted as live webinars. NTIA will post the registration information on its BroadbandUSA website as soon as the virtual platform is finalized.