Great News from Senator Capito on her Crusade for Better Rural Broadband

Some good news out of Washington that could have a real positive effect for those of us living and working in Preston County.

On Wednesday, U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va. and Angus King (I-Maine) wrote a bipartisan letter to the USDA requesting that the agency modernize the Community Connect Grant Program with increased broadband speed and service definitions.

The USDA’s website says it provides the grants to help rural areas extend access where broadband service is the least likely to be commercially available, calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to update broadband speed definitions for the Community Connect Grant Program. Earlier this month, USDA upped broadband speed requirements for the Broadband Access Loan Program to 10mbps, while Community Connect was only upped to 4mbps. Both programs provide much-needed support for enhancing broadband in rural America.

In the letter, which was also signed by Senators Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., the senators requested that USDA modernize the Community Connect Program by increasing the broadband speed and service definitions in the grant program. These changes will enable more rural communities that lack adequate broadband service to engage with the Rural Utilities Service and will encourage providers to improve their connectivity.

The senators wrote, “Broadband access is a vital link to a range of necessary services and resources for America’s rural residents. Not only is it an economic development tool for businesses who may be isolated from potential customers and employees, but it broadens educational horizons for students and offers healthcare providers flexible and cost-effective care-delivery approaches.”

Senator Capito’s continued effort to improve rural broadband connectivity is certainly appreciated by folks here.

Last spring, Senator Capito unveiled her bold, high-speed Internet/broadband initiative, called the Capito Connect Plan. In it, she laid out a three-step approach to tackling the broadband challenge in West Virginia. The three steps are: Understanding the benefits of a connected West Virginia; fostering collaboration between government and the private sector; and promoting economic growth through innovation.

Part of the plan was what Senator Capito called a listening tour where her staff visited every county in the state, including Preston. The goal was to get a better understanding of the real Internet/broadband problems families and businesses face every day. Undoubtedly, she has heard West Virginia’s concerns loud and clear.

Her non-partisan, “get the job done” approach to the critical issue of rural broadband connectivity should be commended.

The USDA’s Community Connect Grant Program is a fairly new resource smaller areas such as Preston should absolutely take advantage of. The program helps fund broadband deployment into rural communities, where it is not yet economically viable for private-sector providers to deliver service. Grant applications are being accepted now through June 17 at the following website: http://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/community-connect-grants.

By:  John Dahlia
Source: The Preston County News & Journal