House Ag Republicans unveil Broadband for Rural America Act


House Ag Republicans unveil Broadband for Rural America Act

House Ag Republicans have introduced the Broadband for Rural America Act, a bill that would authorize more than $7 billion for USDA connectivity programs.

House Ag Ranking Member Glenn GT Thompson says the proposal utilizes the expertise of USDA.

“USDA is the department that has the experience, the infrastructure, and the reach necessary to close the digital divide,” he says.

The legislation is one of several infrastructure proposals from House Republicans being introduced.

Speaking with reporters today, Thompson said the Broadband for rural America Act would help the digital divide and priorities the needs of rural communities.

“With continued investments in broadband, we can empower farm families, better serve rural America, and fuel global economies,” he says.

Congressman Austin Scott of Georgia says a unique aspect of this legislation is the “fast-forward funding.”

“It’s the 3.7 billion a year for two years that we are going to put in the USDA,” he says. “I think it’s important for rural America that the money goes to the USDA and not the Federal Communications Commission. There’s’ some talk at the FCC of changing the speed from 25 to 100 megabytes as what is considered to be highspeed. We, in rural America, want to make sure we establish 25-megabytes connections prior to the expansion. By putting money in the USDA we feel like the focus of the funds will end up being in that expansion to rural America.”

The Broadband for Rural America Act authorizes $3.7 billion per year for critical rural broadband programs, including the ReConnect Rural Broadband Program, the Middle Mile Broadband Program, and the Innovative Broadband Advancement Program. Thompson says the two-year authorizations would take the programs into the 2023 Farm Bill.

It would eliminate duplicative programs by codifying the ReConnect program and build on its successes by establishing 25/3 megabytes connections as the threshold for minimum broadband service. It would also target limited resources so assistance is focused on the most rural and least-connected residents and promote borrower accountability and protect taxpayers.