WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Angus King (I-Maine), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), and John Boozman (R-Ark.)—co-chairs of the bipartisan Senate Broadband Caucus—today sent a letter to President Donald J. Trump, urging the administration to include “dedicated, stand-alone funding for broadband deployment” in any proposed infrastructure package.
“Our rural communities have connectivity needs that are not being met, limiting economic opportunity and growth,” the senators wrote. “Prioritizing direct funding support for broadband deployment in an infrastructure package will help close the digital divide and ensure our country maintains its global competitiveness.”
For every $5 billion invested in broadband infrastructure, 250,000 jobs are created; and with every percentage point increase in new broadband distribution, employment expands by 300,000 jobs. Yet, according to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) 2016 Broadband Progress Report, one in ten Americans lacks access to the FCC’s definition of broadband. In rural America, 39 percent of Americans lack access.
The Senate Broadband Caucus focuses on strengthening broadband infrastructure and deployment across the country—addressing broadband challenges; promoting bipartisan discussions about possible connectivity solutions, especially in rural America; and engaging with a broad range of industries and other stakeholders.
In January 2017, the caucus co-chairs led 43 other senators in sending a letter urging the president to include broadband in any infrastructure initiative. Additionally, in December 2016, Senator Capito wrote to then President-elect Trump encouraging the new administration to include broadband deployment as a core component of any infrastructure proposal.
The full letter sent today is available here and below.
Dear Mr. President:
As you consider a plan to address the infrastructure needs of our country, we write to urge you to include dedicated, stand-alone funding for broadband deployment. Our rural communities have connectivity needs that are not being met, limiting economic opportunity and growth. Prioritizing direct funding support for broadband deployment in an infrastructure package will help close the digital divide and ensure our country maintains its global competitiveness.
The administration’s infrastructure proposal should include stand-alone funding that is dedicated to advancing broadband deployment in addition to provisions that reduce regulatory barriers. Policies that encourage investment in communications infrastructure and streamline the deployment process will help speed up the deployment of high-speed broadband. However, these policies must support, not replace, investments in rural America. In parts of the country where geography or population density make deploying and maintaining broadband networks a significant challenge, stand-alone support will help bring economic and social benefits for rural consumers.
Bringing new telecommunications infrastructure to unserved consumers in the most rural, low density parts of the country can be aided by direct federal investments. In these communities, generating private investment can be difficult. Without dedicated funding for broadband deployment, proposals to bring broadband to unserved areas may struggle to compete with other larger infrastructure projects. Stand-alone funding for broadband will ensure that telecommunications infrastructure is advanced alongside needed upgrades to our roads, rail, bridges, ports and waterways.
There is strong bipartisan support for including broadband funding in an infrastructure package. Boosting current investments in broadband deployment will provide new economic opportunities in communities that are struggling to compete. Expanding access to broadband is the infrastructure challenge of our generation and an infrastructure plan for the 21st century must address the broadband connectivity issues facing rural America.
Thank you for your attention to this important request. We look forward to working with you on this critical issue.
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