Bill would establish the Office of Rural Broadband to coordinate information on current rural broadband initiatives to ensure their success
WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Broadband Caucus, and Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND) introduced bipartisan legislation to expand reliable, affordable broadband in rural America. The Office of Rural Broadband Act would require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to establish the Office of Rural Broadband, which would coordinate with USDA’s Rural Utilities Service, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), and the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) to maintain information on current rural broadband initiatives and programs, and to ensure their success. It would also coordinate with agencies to remove barriers to broadband deployment to track broadband adoption rates in rural areas so we can better understand the problems rural Americans face to accessing broadband. The legislation is cosponsored by Senators John Hoeven (R-ND) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
“Broadband infrastructure is critical in our 21st century economy, but many rural communities still lack access to reliable, high speed internet,” Klobuchar said. “Establishing an Office of Rural Telecommunications within the Federal Communications Commission will allow for more effective coordination as we deploy broadband infrastructure to ensure that every family has access to high speed internet, no matter where they live.”
“Affordable internet access is essential for farmers, small businesses, and rural Americans,” Cramer said. “This legislation establishes an office dedicated to helping consumers gain access in previously unreached areas. As the Trump administration continues to make progress on expanding rural broadband, Congress needs to remove unnecessary barriers so more rural Americans can receive the access they need.”
As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, Klobuchar has long championed accuracy in national broadband mapping and rural broadband expansion. In September 2018, Klobuchar and Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) led a letter to the Federal Communications Commission highlighting that the FCC’s mobile coverage maps and nationwide broadband coverage reports overstated service and quality in rural areas and encouraged the FCC to use crowdsourced data to improve coverage maps. Klobuchar and Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) led the Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act, which was signed into law as part of the 2018 Farm Bill. The bipartisan legislation will identify gaps in coverage and encourage broadband deployment on farms and ranchland. The 2018 Omnibus Budget Act, which was signed into law on March 23, 2018, contained an additional $600 million for dedicated broadband funding as well as Klobuchar’s bills to encourage wireless carriers to work with rural or smaller carriers to increase wireless broadband access in rural communities and to cut red tape by ensuring that states coordinate highway construction projects with broadband providers so that broadband infrastructure can be installed at the same time—known as “dig once.”