Lawmakers push for high-speed internet access across Rural America

Lawmakers are in DC to discuss the efforts of federal and state agencies to give rural America better access to high-speed internet.

The House Ag Committee took up rural broadband expansion in the 2023 Farm Bill.

“Today we’re here to discuss the collaborative efforts of our federal and state agencies and operations that must work together and make this happen. All of these organizations have got to work together to make sure the money that we are allocating for broadband is distributed properly and working effectively,” Chairman David Scott of Georgia said.

USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development, Xochitl Torres Small says they are ensuring rural America gets access to investments.

“Last month, Secretary Vilsack announced the department was investing the first tranche of the last round of Reconnect $401 million to provide access to high-speed internet. USDA Rural Development is proud to serve as a critical coordinator for federal rural work. Through efforts like the Rural Partners’ Network, we’re making sure that investments like the bipartisan infrastructure law reach rural America,” said Small.

U.S. Telecom Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships Vice President, B. Lynn Follansbee highlights how important broadband access is considering the pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic clearly illustrated that high-speed broadband is the cornerstone of American life connecting people to education, health care, employment, and virtually every aspect of our daily lives, while also ensuring our nation’s economic security. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act programs provide a significant amount of money for broadband deployment and there is a clear need for close coordination across all agencies involved. U.S. Telecom recommends that policymakers require early reporting by states that administer broadband funding programs, particularly those funded by NTIA, and that data should be included in the FCCs broadband data collection maps,” said Follansbee.

Tarryl Clark, Stearns County First District Commissioner says no one should be left behind.

“The lack of reliable broadband in our rural communities is a major economic barrier and an issue of socio-economic equality. Without access to high-speed internet, many of our rural and underserved communities are becoming increasingly isolated and left behind. A continued focus on broadband infrastructure grants programs that are accessible, flexible, and respectful of the local decision-making authority is needed to connect rural America. Moving forward, we want to ensure we meet our collective goal of 100% connectivity across rural America which is not only vital to the success of these communities but also our nation. A strong federal, state, local partnership is needed. We believe in consultation with counties, the 2023 Farm Bill provides a unique opportunity to further address the dire productivity needs of our nation’s rural counties to ensure they are resilient, and future-ready communities,” said Clark.


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