Rural Broadband Advocate Capito Goes to Senate Commerce

One of four new GOP additions to the Senate Commerce Committee brings with her the goal of making high-speed internet available to more Americans, especially in rural areas.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) joined the committee in the 115th Congress that convened Jan. 3, Republican leaders announced. Capito has championed the cause of expanding broadband availability in underserved areas. Setting telecommunications policy is a pillar of the committee’s jurisdiction.

Capito plans to “have a more powerful voice on telecom issues” in joining the panel, she said in a statement. She highlighted “advancing critical infrastructure and broadband access” for her home state as a priority in all her committee assignments.

Capito launched the bipartisan Senate Broadband Caucus with four other senators, including Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), already a high-ranking committee member, in July 2016 in order to advance the cause of deploying broadband nationwide. Although the caucus hasn’t yet generated any legislation or policy recommendations on broadband growth, its members have stressed that Congress should prioritize broadband in any forthcoming infrastructure proposals and figure out ways of spurring private-sector broadband investment.

The other new Republicans on the committee are Sens. Todd Young, the former Indiana congressman who succeeded Republican Dan Coats, who retired; James Inhofe (Okla.) and Mike Lee (Utah).

Neither broadband nor telecommunications more generally seemed to be major issues for Young during his six years in the House, nor for Inhofe throughout his Senate career. Lee’s efforts around broadband have largely centered on reviewing regulatory jurisdiction in the area, as with his 2016 sponsorship of the Restoring Internet Freedom Act (S. 2602) that would have undone the Federal Communications Commission’s 2015 net neutrality rules.

By:  Kyle Daly
Source: Bloomberg BNA