Augusta Free Press: Spanberger calling on Senate, House appropriators to prioritize rural broadband projects

AUGUSTA FREE PRESS

Abigail Spanberger led a bipartisan letter with 48 of her House colleagues calling on the Senate and House to prioritize funding to support high-speed broadband internet infrastructure projects across rural America.

Spanberger led the letter with U.S. Representatives Rodney Davis (R-IL-13) and Antonio Delgado (D-NY-19).

The bipartisan group of Members urged leaders of the Senate and House Appropriations Subcommittees on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies to increase federal investment in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Rural eConnectivity Pilot Program (ReConnect Program). The ReConnect Program partners with businesses and local officials to expand high-speed internet infrastructure and increase e-Connectivity in rural and underserved communities across the country.

In the bipartisan letter, Spanberger urged Appropriators to provide—in the final appropriations package—funding for rural broadband similar to what was included in the House agriculture appropriations bill passed earlier this year, which included $605 million for the ReConnect Program.

“As the House and Senate work together to pass Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations, we write to urge you to support robust funding for rural broadband,” their letter states. “We are concerned to see that the current Senate Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2020 does not provide any new funding for ReConnect.”

Their letter continues, “This year, USDA began accepting applications for the first round of ReConnect grant and loan awards. In this first application cycle, we saw approximately a three to one ratio in funding sought to funding available. Given the demand for this program, we urge Senate and House Appropriators to include robust funding for rural broadband loan and grant programs in the final Fiscal Year 2020 Appropriations package. We believe that support for programs such as ReConnect and the 2018 Farm Bill broadband loan and grant program is critical to address the ‘digital divide’ and ensure that our rural communities have equal access to opportunity.”

Spanberger, Davis, and Delgado all serve on the House Agriculture Committee.

Click here to read the full letter, and click here to learn more about the USDA’s ReConnect Program.

This letter builds on Spanberger’s efforts to bring strengthened rural broadband funding to communities that need it. In June 2019, Spanberger successfully led the fight to pass a bipartisan amendment that would increase federal rural broadband infrastructure funding by $55 million. The amendment was passed by the House as part of the agriculture appropriations package.

 

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