O’Halleran, Latta Introduce Bipartisan Legislation Advancing Broadband Services in Rural America

August 7, 2020
Press Release

VILLAGE OF OAK CREEK -- Today, Congressman Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ-01) and Congressman Bob Latta (R-OH-05) introduced the Rural Connectivity Advancement Program (RCAP) Act of 2020, bipartisan legislation that would facilitate broadband buildout in rural communities by capturing a portion of the proceeds from spectrum auctions conducted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) through September 30, 2022.

“An astounding 36% of tribal households lack access to wired broadband,” said O’Halleran. “Since coming to Congress in 2017, I’ve fought to expand reliable, high-speed internet to families across rural and tribal Arizona. Now more than ever, this essential service connects us to work, school, and health care. I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan bill that will help address existing gaps in broadband infrastructure in rural and tribal areas and provide transparency and accountability in the distribution of funding for these important programs.”

“Our country’s technological capabilities are revolutionizing the way Americans communicate and work with each other, but many Americans who live in rural communities are being left behind,” said Latta. “The Internet is a critical driver of economic growth; it has become a lifeline to access health care, receive an education, earn a living, and more, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. It has become increasingly clear that access to broadband is a must-have to meet those goals, which is why it is critical to support efforts to close the digital divide. This bill will increase funding to further the buildout of broadband in rural communities so that Americans, including those who live in rural America, will be able to participate in our 21st century economy.”

The legislation is the U.S. House of Representatives companion of the Rural Connectivity Advancement Program (RCAP) Act of 2020, introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senator John Thune (R-SD.)

Specifically, RCAP would:

  • set-aside 10 percent of the net proceeds from spectrum auctions for the buildout of broadband networks;
  • require the FCC to utilize the funds provided by RCAP to address gaps that remain in broadband internet access service coverage in high-cost rural areas;
  • allow the FCC to use the funds provided by RCAP in a technology-neutral manner to address shortfalls in sufficient funding of existing USF High-Cost Programs for the buildout of broadband services;
  • require the FCC to emphasize the broadband internet access service needs of residents of tribal lands; and
  • require the FCC to produce an annual report on the distribution of funds established under this act.

The Energy and Commerce Committee is the oldest standing legislative committee in the U.S. House of Representatives and is vested with the broadest jurisdiction of any congressional authorizing committee.