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.) are joining together to launch the Senate Broadband Caucus.

As internet access plays an increasingly important role in all sectors of our economy, from education to agriculture, telemedicine to the innovation economy, the Senate Broadband Caucus will serve as a platform to engage in discussions across Committee jurisdictions and to inform Senators and their staff about emerging broadband issues.

The caucus will focus on strengthening broadband infrastructure and deployment across the country. The caucus will address broadband challenges facing Americans, promote bipartisan discussions about possible solutions to increase connectivity and close the digital divide, especially in rural America, and engage with a broad range of industries and other stakeholders.

The economic benefits of broadband infrastructure are clear. 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 FCC’s 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.

A recent study found that after each megabit per second increase in internet speeds, the unemployment rate dropped, the rate of bachelor degrees earned increased, and the median household income increased. In rural areas, where broadband serves to bridge geographic barriers, these benefits are particularly important.

The caucus will host its first event today at 4:30PM in Senate Dirksen 562. The event is open to press and will be livestreamed here. Please RSVP to press@capito.senate.gov.

“From online business startups to digital learning and telemedicine, broadband access is critical to the strength of our economy and our communities. Unfortunately, the digital divide between rural and urban America is growing as essential broadband infrastructure falls behind in certain parts of the country,” said Capito. “Last year, I announced my Capito Connect Plan to help bridge this divide in West Virginia. 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.”

“Broadband is no longer a luxury in today’s highly-connected world,” King said. “It’s an essential tool that connects people and communities to economic and educational opportunities in unprecedented ways – and that’s why it’s critical that Congress invests in its expansion as a central part of a thriving 21st century economy. The Senate Broadband Caucus, which I’m proud to launch with my colleagues today, is a recognition that high-speed internet is an integral resource and that everyone across the country, whether you live in rural Maine or anywhere else, deserves access to it.”

“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.”

“In a rural state like North Dakota, access to high-speed internet can be a lifeline,” said Heitkamp. “It enables students to connect with resources around the world, allows businesses to sell their products nationwide, and helps boost struggling communities. With the launch of the Senate Broadband Caucus, we’re working to raise awareness about why it’s so needed for every community across the country to have access to high-speed internet so we can help close the digital divide.”

“Connectivity is the vital infrastructure for the modern age. 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,” Boozman said.