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The Week Ahead: Senate committee tackles broadband during infrastructure week

In Congress:

The Senate Commerce Committee will focus on infrastructure spending during the week of March 12, kicking off with a hearing on March 13 dedicated specifically to broadband deployment.

The hearing, titled "Rebuilding Infrastructure in America: Investing in Next Generation Broadband," will explore the most effective ways to address broadband deployment in an infrastructure package while also weighing lessons learned from the broadband infrastructure projects funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. A number of projects funded by the 2009 stimulus bill were ultimately criticized by lawmakers for overspending, overbuilding and waste. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation and the Internet, will lead the hearing, and speakers will include leaders from various broadband industry groups, including Competitive Carriers Association CEO Steve Berry; CTIA Executive Vice President Brad Gillen; and NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association Senior Vice President for Policy Mike Romano.

Including the broadband hearing, the Senate Commerce Committee plans to hold three hearings during the week of March 12 that all aim to build on President Donald Trump's infrastructure plan released in February. While the larger White House plan aims to stimulate a $1.5 trillion investment in infrastructure over 10 years, only $200 billion of that total would come directly from federal funds. In terms of broadband, the plan allocates $50 billion of the $200 billion in direct federal funding to a new Rural Infrastructure Program, though that money is to be shared between transportation, broadband, water and electric projects, among others. Trump's infrastructure plan also provides $20 billion for a Transformative Projects program, which will award funding on a competitive basis to innovative transportation, clean water, drinking water, energy and broadband projects.

In a statement, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune, R-S.D., said the committee's hearings during the week of March 12 will "help guide our efforts to write bipartisan infrastructure legislation meeting the needs of our communities across the country." In addition to Wicker's broadband hearing, the committee will also hold a hearing focused on transportation. All told, five cabinet secretaries are set to testify before the committee, including Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Department of Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

"Testimony from these five cabinet secretaries will support a comprehensive public discussion with senators about the White House proposal for aligning federal resources with local infrastructure needs and helping complete projects faster," Thune said.

While Trump's infrastructure plan gave Congress an outline, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., recently said he expects Congress to tackle infrastructure in "five or six different bills." Speaking during a question and answer event in Atlanta, Ryan said Congress would start with airports and runways. Then, he said Congress would move on "traditional infrastructure" spending, such as "highways, roads and bridges." Looking ahead, Ryan said he expected individual infrastructure spending bills to come up through the summer.

Congressional Democrats, meanwhile, have their own infrastructure proposal, known as the Leading Infrastructure For Tomorrow's America Act, or LIFT America Act. The bill would authorize $40 billion for the deployment of secure and resilient broadband.

South by Southwest

South by Southwest a conference and festival that explores the convergence of music, film and technology is underway in Austin, Texas, running through March 18. Featured speakers at the event include the founder and CEO of Dell Technologies Inc., Michael Dell; ?film director Richard Linklater?; former U.S. Chief Technology Officer and shift7 co-founder Megan Smith; and Bumble founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd. The conference has become known both as a launchpad for tech startups seeking to tell their stories and as a showcase for media companies trying to connect with audiences.

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March 13 The Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation and the Internet, will convene a hearing titled "Rebuilding Infrastructure in America: Investing in Next Generation Broadband" at 10 a.m. ET.
March 13 The Senate Subcommittee on Cybersecurity will hold a hearing titled "Cyber Posture of the [Armed] Services" at 2:30 p.m. ET.
March 14 The House Subcommittee on Energy will hold a hearing titled "DOE Modernization: Legislation Addressing Cybersecurity and Emergency Response" at 10 a.m. ET.
March 14 The House Committee on Foreign Affairs will hold a hearing titled "Modernizing Export Controls: Protecting Cutting-Edge Technology and U.S. National Security" at 10 a.m. ET.
March 14 The House Subcommittee on Capital Markets will a hearing titled "Examining the Cryptocurrencies and ICO Markets" at 10 a.m. ET.
March 14 The House Subcommittees on Information Technology and Government Operations will hold a hearing titled "State of Play: Federal IT in 2018" at 2 p.m. ET.
March 15 The House Subcommittee on Terrorism and Illicit Finance will hold a hearing titled "After the Breach: the Monetization and Illicit Use of Stolen Data" at 2 p.m. ET.
March 16 The House Subcommittee on Capital Markets will hold a hearing titled "Oversight of the SEC's Division of Enforcement" at 9 a.m. ET.
FCC events
March 14 The FCC's Rural Broadband Auctions Task Force, in conjunction with the Wireless Telecommunications and Wireline Competition Bureaus, will host a workshop on the application process for the Connect America Fund Phase II auction at 11 a.m. ET.
March 16 The North American Numbering Council will hold its next meeting at 9:30 p.m. ET.
Industry events
March 9 - 18 South by Southwest kicks off in Austin, Texas.
March 12 - 15 The SATELLITE 2018 Conference and Exhibition will take place in Washington, D.C.
March 12 The Federal Communications Bar Association will hold an event titled "The Connect America Fund Phase II Auction is Coming: Are You Ready?"
March 13 The Consumer Technology Association will hold its Innovation Policy Day 2018.
March 13 The Bipartisan Policy Center will hold an event titled "The Industrial Internet of Things." The event is part of the center's larger series on infrastructure ideas and innovations.
March 13 Future Tense will host an event titled "How Will Self-Driving Cars Reshape Our Cities?"
March 15 The Capitol Forum and American University Washington College of Law will hold an event focused on the Department of Justice's antitrust lawsuit that seeks to block AT&T Inc.'s proposed acquisition of Time Warner Inc.
March 15 The Cato Institute will host an event titled "The Political Spectrum: The Tumultuous Liberation of Wireless Technology, from Herbert Hoover to the Smartphone" featuring remarks by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.
March 15 The Software & Information Industry Association will host an event titled "The CLOUD Act: A Legal Framework for Cross-Border Data Access."
March 16 The Open Technology Institute will hold an event titled "Talking Cars, 5G, and Wi-Fi: Time to Get More Mileage from the Car Band."
March 16 The Hudson Institute will host an event titled "Why Is There Resistance to Modernizing the FCC?"
Cybersecurity events:
March 14 The Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology, which bills itself as a cybersecurity think tank, will hold a cyber intelligence briefing.
March 15 Silicon Flatirons will host an event titled "Cyber Risks in an IoT World."
March 15 New America's Open Technology Institute will launch its "Raising the Standard" project, which centers on a collaborative effort to create a digital privacy and security evaluation tools.

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