How the $1 trillion infrastructure bill will direct billions toward tech spending

Technology

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A Tesla Model 3 plugged in and charging at a Supercharger rapid battery charging station for electric vehicles in Bersteland, Germany, on March 02, 2021.
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During the pandemic, the internet kept Americans going as much as highways and rails.

Now, a $1 trillion infrastructure bill passed by the Senate Tuesday is set to inject money into expanding broadband access and bring funding to other parts of the tech sector, including electric vehicles. At the same time, the bill includes new tax reporting requirements for cryptocurrency transactions, meant to help fund the bill’s enormous price tag.

The bill still needs to be passed by the House of Representatives and signed into law by President Joe Biden.

The bill allocates about $75 billion of the roughly $1 trillion total between broadband, cybersecurity and electric vehicle charging station funding. The cryptocurrency tax reporting provision would raise about $28 billion to fund it, the Joint Committee on Taxation estimated.

Here are the ways the new infrastructure bill would impact the tech sector once passed by the House and signed into law.

Crypto tax reporting

One of the most contested parts of the bill in its final days has been a pay-for provision that would place stricter tax reporting requirements on cryptocurrency transactions.

The proposal was meant as a way to fund the hefty price of the bill, but engendered fierce debate over potential unintended effects.

The provision aimed to levy stricter tax reporting rules on cryptocurrency transactions, though industry leaders warned it would inadvertently include software developers as “brokers” under the bill’s language.

A group of senators proposed an amendment to limit that definition and carve out such software makers from the new requirements. But another group of senators countered with an amendment maintaining a broader definition.

On Monday, senators said they met an agreement on the amendments, but that compromise was blocked once it went to the floor.

The House still has a chance to revise this portion of the bill and the cryptocurrency industry is expected to lobby representatives to do so.

Sen. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., who owns cryptocurrency and introduced the proposal limiting the broker definition, said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” ahead of the final vote Tuesday that if the expanded broker definition were passed, it would fall onto the Treasury Department to write rules refining its impact.

Broadband

The infrastructure bill will allocate $65 billion toward expanding access to internet services, also known as broadband. The pandemic highlighted the need for high-speed internet access as office-based workers and students began logging into work and school from home.

It also further illuminated stark disparities in internet access in rural areas and some low-income urban neighborhoods.

The funds include a $42.5 billion grant program to fund broadband deployment in areas with the least amount of coverage. Another $14 billion will help subsidize internet costs for low-income Americans, extending the emergency funds created by bills passed at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

The new internet subsidy would give eligible Americans a discount of up to $30 a month, while they receive up to $50 today under the emergency program.

Electric Vehicles

The bill will also fund the installment of electric vehicle charging stations across the country with $7.5 billion.

But that allocation falls far below what industry experts believe is needed to create a robust national system. Consulting firm AlixPartners previously estimated it would take $50 billion to build a U.S. charging network that would be able to serve the number of electric vehicles expected by 2030.

Tesla is among the companies that would benefit from the bill, in part because it opened its charging stations to other manufacturers’ vehicles, making it eligible to receive the funds.

Cybersecurity

A chunk of funding will go toward enforcing the country’s cybersecurity forces. After a tumultuous year of cyberattacks that have plagued both private businesses and government agencies, Congress chose to allocate about $2 billion for cybersecurity purposes.

Of that, $1 billion would fund a grant program for states, local and tribal governments to reinforce their cybersecurity programs. Local governments have been among those targeted by ransomware attacks in recent years, where hackers shut down systems until a ransom is paid.

Other portions of the funds would go toward strengthening the security of the electric grid and to the the Department of Homeland Security for cyber research and development and to its Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to bump its operational budget.

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