Bills on rural broadband, violence in media


Two media-related bills, addressing the issues of rural broadband service and violence in the media, were introduced in the Senate on Wednesday.

Senator Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) has introduced a bill intended to encourage broadband deployment in rural areas. Dorgan promised the bill earlier this year, as part of the Democratic technology agenda. The bill would provide federally guaranteed loans at 2% interest to broadband providers-including telecommunications companies, satellite carriers, cable operators and wireless providers-to roll out services in markets with less than 20,0000 people, according to the bill.

Up to $3 billion in loans would be available through Sept. 30, 2006. The bill would assign loan approval authority to the Rural Utilities Service, which already makes such loans to traditional telecommunications providers, as well as to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. Senate co-sponsors include incoming Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), Tim Johnson (S.D.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.). Reps. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.) have sponsored similar legislation in the House.

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) has introduced another bill that would require the government to study how watching violent media affects kids. Brownback attached an amendment to a larger education bill the Senate is debating that would require the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Education to "conduct a study regarding how exposure to violent entertainment (such as movies, music, television, Internet content, video games, and arcade games) affects children's cognitive development and educational achievement," according to the bill.

The House already has passed the education bill, which is supported by the Bush administration. The Senate needs to finish work on it, which was interrupted by the debate on tax cuts and the Senate's switch to Democratic control.
- Paige Albiniak