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Regional innovation highlights in infrastructure bill

August 05, 2021
By: Jason Rittenberg

Editor’s note: The Senate passed the Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act on Aug. 10, 2021. This article has been updated to reflect the final amendments and new information on next steps for the legislation.

This week, the Senate passed the bipartisan infrastructure agreement, formally, the Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act. While small as a percentage of the trillion-dollar total, there are a number of proposed items that can support regional innovation economies, with broadband being the highest funded. Other proposals of interest include funding that will stimulate demand for clean energy innovations, further cybersecurity development and reauthorizing the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA).

Note that this analysis is based on the text of amendments available through congress.gov as of Aug. 11, 2021 and may be subject to change once the final bill text is made available.

Technology and innovation highlights from the bill include the following:

  • $65 billion for a variety of broadband deployment initiatives, as well as funding and policies to improve affordability.
  • Investments that are intended to increase demand for electric vehicles, including $7.5 billion for a network of electric vehicle charging stations, $5 billion for electric buses, and $2.5 billion for electric ferries.
  • Authorization of a Grid Deployment Authority to invest in R&D and promote smart technologies.
  • An expanded R&D title, including new priorities for the Department of Transportation and dedicated funding for leveraging transportation data ($12.5 million) and investments in “emerging technology” ($25 million).
  • New regional and national Transportation Resilience and Adaptation Centers of Excellence ($50 million).
  • Cybersecurity investments in energy and water sectors, and incentives for utilities to make their own cybersecurity investments.
  • A new interagency task for that will study the workforce needs of the telecommunications industry.
  • Reauthorization for MBDA, including support for MBDA Rural Business Centers, robust entrepreneurship education, and existing initiatives.

The Senate's legislation advanced as a replacement of a House infrastructure bill, and the legislation therefore returns to the House for consideration. The chamber is current on recess but will return Aug. 23. At this time, it is not clear if the House will pick up the Senate's bill before consideration the $3.5 trillion human infrastructure package expected to advance through reconciliation.

legislation, infrastructure, broadband, congress, cybersecurity