Senators Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Increase Access to Rural Broadband

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Sens. John Thune (R-SD), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Deb Fischer (R-NE) introduced the Rural Internet Improvement Act. This bipartisan legislation would streamline and bolster US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development broadband programs and ensure that their funding is being targeted to rural areas that need it the most. The legislation would:

  • Streamline USDA’s broadband authorities by merging and codifying the popular Rural e-Connectivity Pilot Program (ReConnect) with USDA’s traditional broadband loan and grant program;
  • Ensure ReConnect funding is going to areas most in need of reliable broadband service by limiting funding to areas where at least 90 percent of households lack access to broadband service;
  • Enhance the participation of all types of broadband providers in the ReConnect Program by removing unnecessary barriers;
  • Increase transparency by improving the challenge process in the ReConnect Program;
  • Improve the coordination between USDA and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on broadband programs; and
  • Require USDA to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the FCC and National Telecommunications and Information Administration to facilitate outreach to rural residents and businesses of available federal programs that promote broadband access, broadband affordability, and broadband inclusion.

Thune, Luján, Klobuchar, Fischer Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Increase Access to Rural Broadband