Broadband legislation is one step closer to passing
The House Ag Committee reached an agreement on broadband funding, moving the legislation one step closer to passage.
The House Agriculture Committee unanimously passed the Broadband Internet Connections for Rural America Act, but Chairman David Scott. says that there is still more work to be done.
“Now, we as a committee must roll up our sleeves here and go to work. We want to get this on the floor. Get it passed. Get it over to the Senate, so we can get into action and apply the great work of finally getting rural broadband into our rural communities,” Scott explains.
During the markup, ranking member Glenn Thompson praised Chairman Scott for working with Republicans to find common ground on funding levels.
According to Thompson, “The new amendment removes a language that sets aside funding for specific states and by doing so, that we’re pulling all rural communities that are in desperate need of reliable broadband, on the same playing field, and I appreciate, I really do appreciate you working with us on that.”
The bill bolsters funding for existing USDA programs, like Reconnect, Community Connect, and Distance Learning, while also creating an opportunity for USDA to improve technical assistance.
USDA General Counsel, Gary Badway says that the new program will be modeled after the agency’s successful water program outreach.
“Since we haven’t had one before, we’ve always had to rely on technical assistance of like the Reconnect Program that’s only available during a window period, but this would be able to provide technical assistance and information to communities all year round,” Badway states.
The bill now heads to the full House for consideration, but Congressman Thompson cautioned members not to let their work on broadband get pulled down by the larger infrastructure debate.
“This bill needs to be part of the discussion as we decide the details of any broader infrastructure package, but as we negotiate that final package, all our good work here today will be for not if this package is jammed through the House and tied in a partisan process that we may not be able to support,” he adds.
Additional funding for broadband is included in the $1.2 trillion dollar proposed infrastructure package, which lawmakers are hoping to reach an agreement on this month.