Affordable, reliable Internet service is still elusive for millions of Americans, particularly in rural areas. Minnesota Senator Tina Smith has introduced legislation to address the problem and deploy broadband in remote parts of the country.
“I think we all really understand, probably better now than we did before the pandemic, that broadband is the basic infrastructure of the 21st century and if you can’t connect you can’t get your education, you can’t get your job done, you can’t get your healthcare, and we also know that there’s a lot of people who just are still not even connected,” Smith said. “We think that something like 171,000 Minnesotans and Minnesota households and 13 million households nationally don’t have any connection or just have a bad connection – too slow, spotty, or just don’t really work – so that’s where my bill comes in.”
The Community Connection Grant Program Act establishes a program within the Department of Agriculture to disperse funding, provide essential community facilities like fire stations and schools with service, and modernize minimum speed service. Smith says the proposal supports small business.
“A hundred years ago, we said that every single household in this country ought to be able to turn the lights on and have electricity to power their pumps and everything they needed. And it’s the same today,” Smith said. “Just like with rural electrification we realize that the private sector is not going to be able to get the broadband out all by themselves. They need that public private partnership, which is exactly what the Rural Electrification Administration was, and that’s what we’re doing here too. There are local telecom providers – they might be rural electric co-ops – that are ready to do this work and it’s important to me that we are supporting small businesses on the ground that are going to be deploying these resources and getting this infrastructure built out.”