The Washington Times recently ran a letter to the Editor from Senator Amy Klobuchar…
Access to high-speed broadband is no longer a privilege in 21st century America — it’s a necessity. Americans should be able to find a good job, launch a new business, or take college classes regardless of where they live. But in the United States, nearly 40 percent of rural Americans lack access to high-speed broadband. That means a serious infrastructure plan for the 21st century is not complete without addressing the broadband connectivity issues facing our country.
I go to all 87 counties in Minnesota every year, and I’ve seen firsthand the benefits that broadband has delivered to communities across the state as well as the challenges faced by rural areas that don’t have the same access. I’ve talked to a student who had to hold his phone up to a window in his home to try to download the information he needed to do his homework. And I’ve met with farmers who aren’t able to utilize technology like precision agriculture to keep their businesses competitive. One even had to bring his computer to a McDonald’s parking lot just to find a reliable internet connection. That’s unacceptable in 2018.
The White House recently released its infrastructure plan, and while I’m glad to see this issue getting attention, I was disappointed that the proposal did not contain any dedicated, stand-alone funding for expanding rural broadband. To ensure broadband is available everywhere will not only require strong federal support, but it will also require policies that streamline the deployment process to ensure that broadband is built in rural areas that have been left behind.
She mentions policies that would streamline deployment for providers and the need for standalone funding for broadband…
As we consider legislation to improve our nation’s infrastructure, I will continue to push for stand-alone funding for broadband. I know we can work across the aisle to get something done because we’ve done it before. Just last month, we passed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 that included an additional $20 billion for infrastructure improvements, and I will be working to direct some of this funding to rural broadband deployment. And in 2015, we passed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, a bipartisan bill that increased transportation funding and helped provide certainty to local governments planning critical projects across the country.
Dedicated, stand-alone funding for broadband needs to be in any infrastructure proposal to ensure telecommunications infrastructure is prioritized alongside needed upgrades to our roads, rail, waterways and bridges. Boosting current investments in broadband and streamlining the deployment process will create jobs, open new doors for the communities we connect, and improve the health and safety of all Americans.
In the 1930s, we worked to bring electricity and telephone service to every home in America. Today, expanding broadband access is the infrastructure challenge of our generation, and we cannot quit our push for affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband until it’s in every corner — and the middle — of our country.