The legislation will establish an Office of Rural Broadband at the Federal Communications Commission to help coordinate federal resources and provide more rural Americans with telecommunications services

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Hoeven (R-ND) introduced bipartisan legislation to establish an Office of Rural Broadband at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to help coordinate federal resources and provide more rural Americans with access to reliable, affordable telecommunications and broadband services. Congressmen Collin Peterson (D-MN) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND) have introduced similar legislation in the House of Representatives.

“Our 21st century economy demands 21st century infrastructure - and that includes broadband,” Klobuchar said. “Establishing an Office of Rural Telecommunications will ensure that rural broadband deployment is a priority for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and that every family, regardless of their zip code, has access to high speed internet.”

“Congress has made it a priority to provide our rural communities with access to reliable, affordable broadband services. This bipartisan legislation will help to coordinate and streamline rural broadband programs to make them more cost-effective and efficient,” Hoeven said. “By ensuring that the federal government’s broadband programs work in concert, we can maximize each dollar and improve and sustain service to more Americans in rural areas.”

Under the legislation, the Office of Rural Broadband will coordinate with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the Universal Service Administration Company (USAC) and other agencies to ensure that all federal agencies with jurisdiction over rural broadband work together to maximize federal funding and coordinate efforts to improve and sustain broadband services in rural areas. The office will also be responsible for tracking broadband adoption rates in rural areas, coordinating federal efforts to remove barriers to broadband deployment, assessing the impact of FCC actions on rural consumers and providing annual reports on progress.  

As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee and co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Broadband Caucus, Klobuchar has been a leader in pushing to expand and improve communications infrastructure in rural areas. Klobuchar and Senator Deb Fischer’s (R-NE) Rural Spectrum Accessibility Act was signed into law in March of this year. The legislation will boost wireless broadband coverage across rural America by incentivizing wireless carriers to lease unused spectrum to rural or smaller carriers to expand wireless coverage to more rural communities.

In April, Klobuchar and Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) announced the passage of their legislation, the Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act of 2018, by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. The bill would direct the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to establish a task force to identify gaps in broadband connectivity for the nation’s cropland and ranchland.

Last May, Klobuchar, Wicker and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) introduced the bipartisan Rural Wireless Access Act of 2017 to expand broadband deployment using accurate coverage maps. Last April, Klobuchar and Fischer led a bipartisan group of 56 senators in urging the FCC to continue advancing broadband deployment in rural communities. Klobuchar and Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) also introduced legislation to measure the economic impact of broadband on the U.S. economy.