Sen. Tina Smith Introduces Bill to Deploy Broadband to Unserved Rural and Tribal Communities

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Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) introduced legislation—the Community Connect Grant Program Act—to establish the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) program under law and make improvements to the grant program that makes funding available for broadband projects in tribal, low-income, and remote rural areas. The USDA Community Connect program through the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) helps fund broadband deployment into rural communities. In addition to authorizing the program and targeting areas that lack access across the nation, Sen. Smith’s bill would increase internet speed service under the program because she hears time and time again that this is a real concern for Minnesotans. The Community Connect Grant Program Act would:

  • Provide grants to construct, acquire, or lease facilities—including spectrum, land, or buildings—to deploy broadband service
  • Modernize minimum speed service to coordinate with the Federal Communications Commission and keep pace with 21st Century needs.
  • Provide essential community facilities—like fire stations and public schools—with service for up to two years.
  • A portion of the grant funding may also be used to improve, expand, construct, or acquire a community center within the proposed service area to provide community access.
  • Avoid duplicating deployment efforts by not building over existing broadband networks, responsibly investing federal funding and taxpayer money.
  • Authorize funding for Community Connect grants at $50 million per fiscal year.

Sen. Tina Smith Introduces Bill to Deploy Broadband to Unserved Rural and Tribal Communities