U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., is among five senators banding together to push for better internet access in underserved parts of the country.
The Senate Broadband Caucus was scheduled to host its first meeting at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 12, according to a news release from Capito's office. The caucus will focus on improving internet access for Americans, particularly in rural areas.
Other members of the caucus include Sens. Angus King, I-Maine; Amy Klbuchar, D-Minn.; Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.; John Boozman, R-Ark.
According to the Federal Communications Commission, 10 percent of Americans lack access to internet service that meets minimum download speeds of 25 Mbps. That number jumps to 39 percent in rural areas.
Many parts of West Virginia have no internet access at all. West Virginia Senator Chris Walters, D-Putnam, introduced legislation for the state to help build intermediate internet trunk lines to encourage broadband investment in the state, but the bill did not pass.
Capito hopes to have better luck on the federal level.
“From online business startups to digital learning and telemedicine, broadband access is critical to the strength of our economy and our communities," Capito said. "Unfortunately, the digital divide between rural and urban America is growing as essential broadband infrastructure falls behind in certain parts of the country.
“Last year, I announced my Capito Connect Plan to help bridge this divide in West Virginia," she said. "Today, I am happy to expand this effort with the launch of the Senate Broadband Caucus. By bringing together a bipartisan group of Senators from a diverse group of states, each with its own broadband challenges, this caucus is well-positioned to make a much-needed impact.”
“In an increasingly connected global economy, reliable high-speed broadband is essential to ensuring the competitiveness of rural communities and local businesses,” Klobuchar said. “The livelihoods of families, the success of students, and the bottom line of businesses should not be determined by where they are located and their ability to access high-speed internet. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the bipartisan Senate Broadband Caucus to continue strengthening broadband infrastructure across America.”
King, Heitkamp and Boozman also said access to high-speed internet is vital in the modern world.
“Connectivity is the vital infrastructure for the modern age," Boozman said. "Broadband is an important economic tool and we must provide all Americans with this 21st century building block. I’m proud to join my colleagues in leading efforts to develop policy solutions to bridge the digital divide that exists in rural America."