Spanberger Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Improve Broadband Internet Speeds, Close Digital Divide

The Congresswoman’s Speedy Updates Act Would Require a Report on How Best to Update Speed Thresholds Used to Determine High-Speed Internet Connectivity in Central Virginia

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger today reintroduced bipartisan legislation to ensure that new broadband networks are built to provide Central Virginia customers with sufficient upload and download speeds.

According to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) 2019 Broadband Deployment Report, more than 25 percent of Virginians in rural areas lacked access to high-speed internet. However, the percentage of Central Virginians without reliable broadband access could be much higher. Since 2015, the FCC’s broadband mapping data has relied on the same speed threshold to define whether an area can be said to have adequate broadband service. However, this threshold is already outdated due to new and emerging internet technologies — meaning Virginians who technically meet the current threshold could still lack the ability to connect to cutting-edge internet services.

To address this challenge, Spanberger’s Speedy Updates Act would help update broadband internet speed thresholds. Specifically, her legislation would require the Government Accountability Office to conduct an evaluation and write a report on the efficacy of the FCC’s existing process for establishing, reviewing, and updating its speed thresholds for broadband service.

Spanberger co-led the introduction of this legislation with U.S. Representative Dusty Johnson (R-SD-AL).

“As we focus on making historic investments in internet connectivity, we need to ensure the infrastructure we build will reflect the growing need for faster downloads and uploads. Even in areas of Virginia with existing broadband internet access, many homes and businesses are experiencing lags in their service when using the latest apps and programs — simply because technology is rapidly advancing,” said Spanberger. “My bipartisan legislation would review the FCC’s process for updating speed thresholds and help make future recommendations about how to keep up with these changes. With this additional information, we can make sure Central Virginia’s rural communities can both increase local internet access and take advantage of this progress for years to come.”

“As Congress makes record investments in broadband connectivity, we need to ensure our programs promote speeds that keep pace with today and tomorrow’s business speeds,” said Johnson. “The Speedy Updates Act of 2021 will make sure the FCC prioritizes speed in rural America.”

Spanberger’s legislation was originally passed in the U.S. House last year as part of the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act, which she helped introduce in June 2020. The legislation also included Spanberger’s priorities to provide once-in-a-generation funding toward strengthening broadband connectivity in Central Virginia’s rural and underserved areas, while also addressing digital inequities based on geography, race, and socioeconomic barriers.

Click here to read the full legislation.

BACKGROUND

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Spanberger has worked to bring immediate solutions to students, parents, Main Street businesses, and schools struggling to access high-speed internet during the crisis.

In April 2020, Spanberger led 46 of her colleagues in calling for robust funding for the FCC’s E-Rate program in upcoming coronavirus emergency packages. Later that month, Spanberger also led a bipartisan group of 73 of her U.S. House colleagues in urging Congress to prioritize a historic investment in high-speed internet projects in any upcoming congressional infrastructure package.

Spanberger’s Speedy Updates Act builds on her efforts to close the digital divide in the Seventh District’s rural communities.

In February 2020, Spanberger announced $28 million in federal funding for high-speed broadband internet infrastructure projects in Central Virginia — including in Louisa, Orange, Goochland, and Powhatan Counties — through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect Program. In 2019, Spanberger successfully led the fight to protect ReConnect funding from elimination, and in 2020, she worked to strengthen funding for the program in the fiscal year 2021 funding deal signed into law by President Donald Trump.

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