Sen. Tina Smith Introduces Bill to Deploy Broadband to Unserved Rural and Tribal Communities

From Senator Smith’s office…

Senator’s Legislation Would Establish and Improve Upon the Department of Agriculture Community Connect Grant Program

WASHINGTON, D.C. [04/12/18]—Today, U.S. Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) introduced legislation—the Community Connect Grant Program Act—to establish the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) program under law and make improvements to the grant program that makes funding available for broadband projects in tribal, low-income, and remote rural areas.

The USDA Community Connect program through the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) helps fund broadband deployment into rural communities. In addition to authorizing the program and targeting areas that lack access across the nation, Sen. Smith’s bill would increase internet speed service under the program because she hears time and time again that this is a real concern for Minnesotans.

“Broadband is the infrastructure of the 21st Century—it isn’t just nice, it’s necessary if we’re going to build an economy that works for everyone,” said Sen. Smith. “It is absolutely necessary whether you’re a student working on homework, a business owner selling products, a farmer using modern equipment, or a person who is trying to access health care. My bill is a step forward and one of the many things we have to do in order to connect more Minnesotans and people across the nation with affordable, reliable internet service.”
The Community Connect Grant Program Act would:

  • Provide grants to construct, acquire, or lease facilities—including spectrum, land, or buildings—to deploy broadband service.
  • Modernize minimum speed service to coordinate with the Federal Communications Commission and keep pace with 21st Century needs.
  • Provide essential community facilities—like fire stations and public schools—with service for up to two years.
  • A portion of the grant funding may also be used to improve, expand, construct, or acquire a community center within the proposed service area to provide community access.
  • Avoid duplicating deployment efforts by not building over existing broadband networks, responsibly investing federal funding and taxpayer money.
  • Authorize funding for Community Connect grants at $50 million per fiscal year.

You can learn more about the Community Grant Program Act here.

This entry was posted in Digital Divide, Funding, MN, Policy, Rural by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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