Capito, Hassan Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Help Close Urban-Rural Digital Divide

Legislation would set a national standard to help ensure rural areas have access to reliable broadband

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) today introduced the bipartisan Rural Reasonable and Comparable Wireless Act of 2018 to help close the urban-rural digital divide and expand access to broadband in rural communities.

The bipartisan legislation directs the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to establish a national standard for determining whether mobile and broadband services in rural areas are “reasonably comparable” to service provided in urban areas. The bill will help ensure that there is equitable wireless and broadband service in rural and urban areas, which has long been undefined.

“Now, more than ever, broadband is a powerful tool that students and businesses need to compete in a global digital economy,” Senator Capito said. “While progress has been made, too many rural areas continue to fall behind. The Rural Reasonable and Comparable Wireless Act will help bridge this digital divide by helping to ensure that rural areas—like those in West Virginia—have the access to high-speed internet that many of our urban communities do. By providing greater access to rural broadband, we can help more communities and businesses compete, grow, and succeed.”

“The people and businesses in our rural communities need the same access that urban centers have to reliable and fast mobile and broadband services if they are to compete in the 21st century innovation economy,” Senator Hassan said. “This bipartisan bill will help bridge the urban-rural digital divide that has persisted for far too long by directing the FCC to establish a national standard to ensure that rural and urban areas have similar access to wireless and broadband services. I will continue working across the aisle to move this commonsense measure forward.”

“I thank Senators Capito and Hassan for introducing the bipartisan Rural Reasonable and Comparable Wireless Act of 2018,” Competitive Carriers Association (CCA) President and CEO Steven K. Berry said. “Many rural locations in the U.S. still lack mobile broadband services comparable to their urban counterparts, and this Act, in keeping with Congress’s mandate, will help ensure these important areas are not left behind in the digital world.”

Through her Capito Connect plan and her work as a co-chair of the Senate Broadband Caucus, Senator Capito has long made improving access to rural broadband in West Virginia and across the country a priority. As chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over the FCC and a member of the Commerce Committee, Senator Capito has also worked closely with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to help close the digital divide.

The Rural Reasonable and Comparable Wireless Access Act was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives last year by Representatives David McKinley (R-W.Va.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.). 

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