WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith announced that the U.S. Department of Commerce has awarded $651,839,368 in federal funding through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to bring reliable, affordable, high-speed internet access to every household in Minnesota.
“We should be able to bring high-speed internet to every family in America — regardless of their zip code. With this federal funding we will reach every corner of Minnesota by bringing needed high-speed internet access to schools, homes, and health care centers”, said Klobuchar. “This funding is based on a bill I introduced that passed as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and as co-chair of the Senate Broadband Caucus, I’ll keep working across the aisle to make sure all Minnesotans can reliably access the high-speed internet they need.”
“Broadband is the infrastructure of the 21st Century. It isn’t just nice to have, it’s essential if we’re going to build an economy that works for everyone,” said Smith. “This funding, made possible by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, means that thousands more Minnesotans will gain access to affordable, high-speed internet—and the economic opportunity, education and health care that comes along with internet access. I’m proud of our work to secure these investments and will continue fighting to ensure that every Minnesotan, regardless of their zip code, has access to high-speed broadband.”
The Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act, Klobuchar’s legislation with Former House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) to expand high-speed internet nationwide, served as the basis for this program created by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) at the Department of Commerce will provide funds directly to states to expand broadband access across the country, starting with areas that completely lack connectivity. These grants will help ensure those in unserved and underserved communities have the high-speed internet necessary to participate in the modern digital economy.
Klobuchar and Smith have been national leaders in efforts to expand broadband access, support rural broadband, and bridge the digital divide.
In March, Klobuchar and Senators John Thune (R-SD), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), and Jerry Moran (R-KS) reintroduced bipartisan legislation to expand broadband access to rural communities. The Reforming Broadband Connectivity Act would strengthen funding mechanisms for the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Universal Service Fund (USF), which promotes universal access to broadband and other telecommunications services. Currently, the USF is primarily funded through landline fees, disproportionately impacting seniors, who are more likely to use landlines than other Americans.
In February, Klobuchar introduced bipartisan legislation with Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) to strengthen broadband access for rural communities. The Rural Broadband Protection Act will ensure that providers applying for federal funding can reliably deliver broadband to underserved, rural communities.
In March 2022, Klobuchar and Thune led a bipartisan group of colleagues, in urging the FCC to provide rural communities with guidance on their broadband funding status.
In July 2021, Klobuchar introduced bipartisan legislation with Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) to expand rural broadband access by streamlining the funding process and removing barriers for broadband connectivity in hard-to-serve rural areas.
In December 2020, several of Klobuchar’s key broadband priorities were signed into law as part of the year-end omnibus package passed by the Senate.
Klobuchar has also been laser-focused on ensuring that the work to build the infrastructure starts immediately. That’s why in November 2022, Klobuchar joined Senators Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico and John Barrasso of Wyoming in urging the Departments of Agriculture, Interior, and Commerce to streamline permitting for internet service providers deploying broadband through federal lands. These permits are processed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or National Forest Service, and their prolonged delays can jeopardize broadband projects by increasing costs and causing providers to default on their buildout deadlines.
Senator Smith has been pushing for broadband deployment to the most underserved areas since coming to the Senate. In October 2021, Sen. Smith co-led a letter with Sen. Thune urging USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to continue to grant broadband access awards to areas where there is a higher percentage of unserved households. Last year, Smith introduced bipartisan legislation with Senators Thune (R-SD), Wicker (R-MS) and Casey (D-PA) to increase access to rural broadband. And this spring, Smith reintroduced legislation to help make USDA grants available for broadband projects in tribal, low-income, and remote rural areas.