Congress this week has been preoccupied with weighty issues such as torture, but two committees handling communications and technology managed to make progress on broadband policy.
First, the Senate Commerce Committee on Tuesday approved a bill that would make broadband more affordable. It would do that by letting municipalities act as service providers, something co-sponsor Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, included last year when Congress attempted a telecom act rewrite.
The Community Broadband Act now goes to the full Senate for a vote.
Also on Tuesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed a mapping bill that would help lawmakers and private entities figure out where more broadband Internet access is needed. Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., chair of the telecommunications subcommittee, sponsored the bill. He said the bill was needed because FCC broadband deployment data are inadequate and highly flawed.
The bill, H.R. 3919, also would create a national broadband availability map consumers could use to find service providers. It further provides funds to local planners for increasing local broadband deployment and use.
Finally, the House Commerce Committee passed legislation to ensure that VoIP users will be connected when calling 911 from an Internet phone.