After more than two months of angling and dealmaking, the House of Representatives voted to approve the $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act – also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework – on November 5, sending the bill along with its $2 billion in cyber funding and $65 billion in broadband appropriations to President Biden’s desk for final approval.
The bill, which passed the House by a 228-206 vote after making its way through the Senate in August, includes major new funding for state and local governments (SLG) to boost their cybersecurity measures, protections for the electric grid, and other cybersecurity measures.
“Well, finally: Infrastructure Week,” President Biden said after the bill’s passage. “We did something that’s long overdue, that long has been talked about in Washington but never actually been done.”
“The House of Representatives passed an Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. … A once-in-a-generation investment that’s going to create millions of jobs modernizing our infrastructure — our roads, our bridges, our broadband, a whole range of things — to turn the climate crisis into an opportunity. And it puts us on a path to win the economic competition of the 21st century that we face with China and other large countries and the rest of the world,” he added.
With Biden’s signature as the final step before the bill becomes law, here’s a rundown on cybersecurity and broadband funding included in the package, and how some of those programs will work.
Cyber Gets a Boost
The most significant new investment in the nation’s cybersecurity comes by way of a $1 billion grant program for state, local, tribal, and territorial (SLTT) governments over four years. The funding will be available for SLTTs to improve their cybersecurity measures and posture.
The grant program will be run by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and SLTTs will need to present comprehensive cybersecurity plans in order to access the funding. The bill funds the program at $200 million in fiscal year (FY) 2022, $400 million in FY2023, $300 million in FY2024, and $100 million in FY2025.
Cybersecurity of the electric grid also gets a helping hand from the legislation, by way of a $550 million investment in various grid cybersecurity programs to boost the overall security and resilience of the sector.
The bill also includes $140 million to fund a Cyber Incident Response and Recovery Fund for seven fiscal years. The fund, originally proposed by Sens. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, creates $20 million of annual funding to assist Federal and non-Federal entities that are affected by major cyber events.
The fund would be run by DHS and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). The legislation also gives the DHS secretary, after consultation with the National Cyber Director, the ability to declare a “significant cyber incident.” The bill puts CISA in charge of coordinating all Federal and non-Federal responses.
The bill also appropriates $21 million to stand up the National Cyber Director’s office, allowing National Cyber Director Chris Inglis to continue to build out his office.
While much of the bill’s nearly $550 billion in new spending is geared towards traditional infrastructure, the bill will also make significant investments in broadband, with the primary goal being to move the nation closer to digital equity and bridge the digital divide.
The Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act includes $42.45 billion for the creation of a Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program designed to make grants available to underserved or unserved communities for broadband access projects. The program will be set up by the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information.
Beyond that investment, the bill also creates two digital equity grants, totalling $2.75 billion in funding. One program is for states and will award funding based on a formula, and the other is a competitive grant, with funds awarded based on a competitive application process.
The bill also makes changes to the Emergency Broadband Benefit program created in March’s American Rescue Plan Act. The infrastructure bill gives the program $14 billion, while also changing the program’s name to the Affordable Connectivity Benefit program and cutting monthly broadband service costs from $50/month to $30/month.
The rest of the broadband funding is made up of $2.5 billion for a connecting communities pilot program; $2 billion for a tribal connectivity fund; $2 billion for a rural telemedicine, distance learning, and broadband program; $1 billion for building out middle-mile broadband infrastructure; and $100 million for the Appalachian Regional Commission’s High Speed Internet Initiative over five years.