The Rural Wireless Access Act of 2017 requires the Federal Communications Commission to ensure their broadband coverage maps reflect the real-world experiences of consumers in rural America

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, co-chair of the Senate Broadband Caucus, along with Senators Joe Machin (D-WV) and Roger Wicker (R-MS), has introduced bipartisan legislation to expand broadband deployment using accurate coverage maps. The Rural Wireless Access Act of 2017 requires the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to collect broadband coverage data that is valid, consistent, and robust. This standardized data is necessary to ensure that policies to expand broadband deployment accurately target the unserved and underserved communities and account for the mobile coverage experience of those living in the most remote parts of the country.

“As co-chair of the Senate Broadband Caucus, I know we still have work to do to close the digital divide between rural and urban communities. Fast, reliable broadband is critical for rural Minnesotans to access innovative technologies like telemedicine and precision agriculture,” Klobuchar said. “This bipartisan legislation will help us do right by our rural communities by ensuring that wireless broadband deployment is guided by the most accurate and reliable data possible.”

The Rural Wireless Access Act of 2017 would direct the FCC to establish a methodology to:

  • Ensure that wireless coverage data is collected in a consistent and robust way
  • Improve the validity and reliability of wireless coverage data
  • Increase the efficiency of wireless coverage data collection

Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), Deb Fischer (R-NE), and Jerry Moran (R-KS) are also original cosponsors of the legislation.

As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, Klobuchar has been a leader in pushing to expand and improve communications infrastructure in rural areas. Last month, Klobuchar and Fischer led a bipartisan group of 56 senators in urging the FCC to continue advancing broadband deployment in rural communities. March, Klobuchar and Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) introduced legislation to measure the economic impact of broadband on the U.S. economy. In January, Klobuchar and Capito, along with Senators Angus King (I-ME), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), and John Boozman (R-AR), led 48 senators in urging President Trump to include broadband in any infrastructure initiative.

Klobuchar has also championed policies 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”—and to encourage partitioning or disaggregating spectrum licenses to facilitate leasing unused spectrum to rural and smaller carriers and encouraging collaboration between companies to bridge service gaps in rural areas. Both of these bipartisan provisions were included in the Mobile Now Act when it passed the Senate Commerce Committee in January.