WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Mike Braun (R-IN), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Doug Jones (D-AL) introduced the Rural Broadband Acceleration Act, bipartisan legislation that will bolster efforts to expand access to rural broadband nationwide and speed up the distribution of the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF). The RDOF will allocate $20.4 billion to building rural broadband in two phases and this legislation will ensure that some of that money is distributed to communities much faster than the original deadline. The Rural Broadband Acceleration Act also directs the FCC to adhere to the Universal Service requirement in federal law, which is a joint responsibility for the federal and state governments. The Universal Service requirement states that all people in rural areas must have access to telecommunications and information services that are reasonably comparable, in both speed and price, to the services in urban areas. Thus, this legislation will allow rural America to have the same level of broadband service enjoyed by cities and suburbs across the country. Representative Fred Upton (R-MI) and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) have introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
“In today’s technology-dependent world, with many people still working from home during the pandemic, we must do more to bring high-speed internet and stronger grid infrastructure to the rural areas of our country. Rural America deserves the same level of access to broadband and this legislation will help to get it to them faster. Without this legislation, many rural Americans would not have access to reliable internet and thus would not be able to safely telework, use telehealth services, or attend virtual classrooms. In today’s economy, limited access to broadband is hurting our efforts to promote economic development and job creation across rural Ohio and America. I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this common-sense, bipartisan legislation,” said Senator Portman.
“The better your internet connection, the better you’re able to protect yourself – you need broadband to apply for unemployment, or to order groceries, or to have a telemedicine appointment,” said Senator Brown. “But thousands of Ohioans don’t have a reliable internet connection. It’s either not available where they live, or it’s prohibitively expensive. As we talk about ways to both get through this pandemic, and build a more just country that works for everyone, internet access must be part of our efforts.”
“Securing access to high speed internet service is a one of the most important issues for rural Hoosiers,” said Senator Braun. “I am proud to join my colleagues in this effort which will help begin these broadband infrastructure projects nearly a year ahead of schedule.”
“Millions of Americans still lack access to high-speed broadband, which means they don’t have access to online learning, teleworking, and telemedicine at the very moment they’re most needed during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Senator Bennet. “This common-sense, bipartisan proposal says that if we have shovel-ready projects that will deliver the highest broadband speeds in the communities that need them most, we should accelerate their funding and do everything we can to clear their path. Communities without broadband access in Colorado and across the country need access now and we need to act.”
“Access to reliable and fast broadband is vital for health care, banking, education, communication, and so many other parts of everyday life,” said Senator Jones. “We can’t allow rural communities without affordable broadband access to be left behind simply because they don’t have the right tools. This legislation is an important step in making sure rural Alabamians will have the same opportunities as other folks do.”
“During the coronavirus crisis, millions of Americans have adjusted to spending more time at home – working, running their business, taking classes, and zooming with friends and family,” said Rep. Upton. “But too many Americans have found themselves without access to dependable broadband services - especially in rural counties like in southwest Michigan – making those tasks nearly impossible to do. With so much uncertainty in today’s world, Americans should be able to be certain about this: affordable, reliable internet. If we can pass this bipartisan, bicameral bill and implement it, it might be one of the biggest leaps for rural America in our lifetime.”
“Telework, telemedicine, and distance learning are impossible without broadband access. Nearly 1 in 10 South Carolina households lack access to a reliable broadband connection,” House Majority Whip Clyburn said. “Tens of thousands of children in South Carolina have not been able to participate in online learning since this crisis began. Our bipartisan legislation will fund hundreds of rural broadband construction projects immediately. Rural America cannot afford to wait another day.”
This legislation is supported by the National Association of Realtors (NAR); National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB); Internet and Television Association (NCTA); Fiber Broadband Association (FBA); National Rural Health Association (NRHA); Utility Technology Council (UTC); Corning; Conexon; and CoBank.