WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representative 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.
Since arriving in the U.S. House, Spanberger has worked to expand high-speed broadband internet access across Central Virginia’s rural communities, including by:
- Bringing awareness to the issue of rural broadband. In August 2019, Spanberger held her Rural Broadband Summit in Louisa County to hear about how a lack of reliable broadband internet access is impacting families, farmers, first responders, and small business owners across Central Virginia.
- Amplifying and collecting the stories of Central Virginians. Spanberger has worked to amplify and collect the stories of Central Virginians who are currently facing unnecessary challenges due to the absence of broadband internet in their community. Earlier this year, she collected these stories through her 2019 Rural Broadband Survey, in which she asked Central Virginians to describe how a lack of reliable broadband access has personally impacted them, their families, or their businesses.
- Bringing the eConnectivity concerns of Central Virginians directly to USDA leadership. During her first House Agriculture Committee hearing, Spanberger asked USDA Secretary Perdue about his thoughts on expanding rural broadband. Spanberger also invited Secretary Perdue to visit her district to hear directly from Central Virginia farmers and dairy producers, and get their feedback on current USDA policies and 2018 Farm Bill implementation. He accepted her invitation. Click here for a full video of her remarks.
- Working with colleagues to find common ground on rural broadband policy. Earlier this year, Spanberger announced her appointment to a new task force focused on expanding high-speed internet access in rural communities. The House Task Force on Rural Broadband will provide coordination and leadership to increase investment in rural broadband internet infrastructure across the United States, and it will operate under an overarching goal to make sure all Americans have reliable access to high-speed internet by 2025. And as Co-Chair of the Blue Dog Coalition’s rural opportunity task force, she co-authored an op-ed on Fox News online to highlight the need to pursue smart, bipartisan rural broadband infrastructure policies.