(Reuters) -A bipartisan group of senators and the White House are debating extending a program started early in the COVID-19 pandemic to help lower-income Americans get broadband access by tucking it into the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package, according to two sources familiar with the discussions.
Lawmakers passed the $3.2 billion emergency program last year as a way to help struggling Americans secure broadband internet access during the pandemic. The money helped pay for monthly services along with equipment.
Senators are struggling to reach a deal to revitalize the nation’s roads, bridges and other infrastructure, a key domestic priority of President Joe Biden, who promised to expand the nation’s broadband network while also keeping it affordable for lower-income Americans.
“Affordability is a big issue and a bit of a stumbling block right now,” said one congressional source familiar with the negotiations but not authorized to discuss them publicly.
Democratic attempts to include provisions to lower consumer costs have been met with opposition from Republican lawmakers who are concerned that the Democrats’ ultimate goal is to treat broadband like a utility and greatly regulate prices.
(Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw; Editing by Scott Malone and Leslie Adler)
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