This week, Congresswoman Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (D-WA-03), Congressman Darren Soto (D-FL-09), Congressman Ronny Jackson (R-TX-13), and Congresswoman Kat Cammack (R-FL-03) introduced the Rural Internet Improvement Act to expand broadband access nationwide.
The Rural Internet Improvement Act eliminates duplicative broadband programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) by merging and codifying the popular Rural e-Connectivity Pilot Program (ReConnect) with USDA’s broadband loan and grant program. ReConnect builds upon past successes of these programs by enhancing the participation of all types of providers.
Reliable high-speed broadband services are necessary for America’s rural communities, expanding telehealth, educational, and employment opportunities. There are more than 14.5 million Americans who still lack access to both fixed and mobile broadband, according to the FCC’s most recent Broadband Deployment Report.
“I live in rural America, and I get my internet from a radio tower. Struggling to access the internet is part of everyday life for me and my community. This bipartisan bill brings us closer to ending the digital divide and making sure people can access the internet no matter where they live,” said Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez.
“North Central Florida’s rural communities deserve reliable, affordable, and high-speed internet access for daily activities, including education, telehealth, business, and more. It’s important to continue our critical work to ensure ReConnect works for our rural communities, and I’m pleased to join with my bipartisan colleagues in connecting more people to the internet for our increasingly digital world,” said Rep. Kat Cammack.
“Access to reliable high-speed broadband services is no longer a luxury, but a necessity, especially for our rural communities. The Rural Internet Improvement Act seeks to bridge the digital divide by streamlining USDA broadband authorities, focusing on truly unserved communities, and ensuring program accountability and transparency. By providing support and enhancing participation of all types of providers, we can connect more Americans to the opportunities for advancements in healthcare, education, and economic development that broadband services offer,” said Rep. Darren Soto.
“We applaud Reps. Cammack, Soto, Gluesenkamp Perez, and Jackson on the introduction of the Rural Internet Improvement Act of 2023, legislation focused on helping broadband reach more homes. This bill would guide funding for network expansion to areas where at least 90 percent of households lack access to broadband and encourage reliance on network builders that have experience constructing and operating broadband networks,” said NCTA, the Internet & Television Association.“In addition, this legislation would replace existing programs with a revised ReConnect program that would enhance participation and results so more communities can be connected to broadband even faster. Altogether, these are improvements that should be adopted as part of the Farm Bill. Deploying affordable high-speed broadband to all Americans is a key priority for the cable industry, and we look forward to working with members on passage of this legislation.”
Senators John Thune (R-SD), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Deb Fischer (R-NE), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced the bill in the Senate.