Duluth News Tribune

By Sarah Mearhoff

Minnesota’s senior U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar said Democrats and Republicans “aren’t that far apart” on a broadband infrastructure deal after a Wednesday, May 26, meeting at the White House with bipartisan members of Congress and Vice President Kamala Harris.

In a phone interview with Forum News Service after Wednesday’s meeting, Klobuchar said a bipartisan deal looks promising and lawmakers are aiming to get a deal passed before August. Republicans have put forth a $65 billion broadband package, to which she said Democrats and the White House are amenable.

“The administration has indicated a willingness to go to where the Republicans are on this front. That’s why this is so exciting,” Klobuchar said. “We’re actually negotiating and talking about some of the nuts and bolts about why we have this enormous need in our country for broadband.”

According to video footage from the meeting, Harris said that she and President Joe Biden have been "sincere and focused in making sure that these conversations are bipartisan in nature" because "the subject is not only bipartisan, but the way Americans experience it really is nonpartisan."

The package would invest in expanding broadband infrastructure to areas without access, as well as aim to make internet access more affordable for those who might have connectivity but can’t afford the bill.

Klobuchar said parts of rural America, as well as certain neighborhoods in cities, have been “left behind” when it comes to high speed internet access, and the pandemic has “put a big magnifying glass” on connectivity disparities.

“You have countries like Iceland that have high speed internet everywhere, and they have volcanoes,” she quipped. “If we want to really compete against China and against other countries in the world, we’ve got to get our act together here and that means making high speed internet available everywhere, and not just to certain ZIP codes.”

Klobuchar said Congress and the White House are aiming to pass a major infrastructure initiative before August, and “of course, broadband will be a major part of it.”

“It’s a very promising area for bipartisan agreement.”