Infrastructure package sought that bridges rural digital divide

February 16, 2021
In The News

In a letter, members of the Congressional Rural Broadband Caucus urged President Joe Biden to prioritize investments in broadband infrastructure as the administration develops its infrastructure proposal.

As the letter states, “In the 21st Century, high-speed broadband is no longer a luxury amenity, but rather an essential service for homes and businesses in this interconnected world.”

The discussion of rural broadband was highlighted extensively during the House Agriculture Committee markup of the reconciliation bill for COVID relief, although the committee did not approve any additional funds for rural broadband connectivity.

The letter notes unfortunately, many Americans in our districts lack sufficient broadband infrastructure to take advantage of this explosion of technology and economic possibility. “The digital divide between rural and urban America is significant. Nowhere is this starker than the number of students who are unable to access remote schooling because their homes or communities lack broadband connectivity,” the letter states. 

High-speed broadband facilitates agricultural efficiency for farmers, supplies students and teachers with unlimited access to educational materials, and allows for doctors’ visits at home, the caucus members write. 

“We look forward to working with you and your administration to advance an infrastructure package that bridges the digital divide across our country by ensuring broadband is deployed quickly and aggressively,” the letter concludes.

The House Rural Broadband Caucus is co-chaired by Reps. Tom O’Halleran, D-Ariz., Mark Pocan, D-Wisc.,, Peter Welch, D-Vt., Rob Wittman, R-Va., Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., and Bob Latta, R-Ohio. The Rural Broadband Caucus works in a bipartisan way to promote broadband deployment. Since its inception, the caucus has successfully secured billions of dollars for expanding internet access to rural areas.

Two new members to the caucus include Reps. Randy Feenstra, R-Iowa, and Rep. Chris Jacobs, R-N.Y.

“I’m excited to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to expand high-speed broadband access to rural Americans,” says Feenstra. “From precision farming to virtual working and learning, it has become imperative that every Iowan has access to quality, affordable internet services. Investing in broadband infrastructure would be a step in the right direction as we work to close the digital divide.”

“Expanding broadband access is critical to rebuilding and advancing rural Western New York communities. This need has existed for years, but the pandemic has amplified these needs as schools have moved online, telehealth services are being used more frequently and vaccine appointments are being made online, and Western New Yorkers are working from home,” says Jacobs.

He adds, “Students shouldn’t have to sit outside a restaurant to do homework, farmers should not lose revenue because they cannot compete with high-tech competitors, and small businesses should have every available resource to grow and thrive in Western New York,” Jacobs says. “This has been one of my priorities since taking office, and I worked with my colleagues to successfully secure $635 million in funding for the USDA ReConnect Rural Broadband Program in the most recent appropriations bill.”