Senator Marshall Fights for Broadband Access in Rural Communities
US Senator Roger Marshall of Kansas introduced the ReConnect Rural America Act on May 17 with Senator Peter Welch of Vermont, bipartisan legislation that helps to champion rural communities' access to high-speed broadband.
This lack of accessibility to internet service leaves community members with less access to good-paying jobs, isolation from markets and lack of health care provider technologies.
"The importance of high-speed internet cannot be understated. Unfortunately, in many parts of the country, a quality internet connection is not accessible or affordable. Our rural hospitals, schools, farms, small businesses and families deserve a reliable and speedy internet connection to meet their family's needs and fulfill their job requirements," Senator Marshall said. "I am proud to lead this bipartisan legislation with Senator Welch that would ensure the more sparsely populated areas of the country are able to access the same internet connectivity as their urban counterparts. When it comes to broadband accessibility, we need to focus on solid infrastructure that is built to last and meets the connectivity demand across every region regardless of its size."
"Rural communities across the country—whether in my home state of Vermont or Senator Marshall's beloved Kansas—have been left behind as our economy has become increasingly digital and better connected. That's unacceptable. Support from ReConnect can change that and help our communities close the digital divide. I'm proud to introduce the ReConnecting Rural America Act with Senator Marshall to reauthorize and strengthen this important program," Senator Welch said.
"As small broadband providers in rural areas work tirelessly to bridge the digital divide, the ReConnect program has been an important resource to get the job done," said National Telephone Cooperative Association CEO Shirley Bloomfield. "The ReConnecting Rural America Act improves upon this already successful program to better target funding where it is needed most, recognizes that experience matters when it comes to delivering rural broadband, and ensures that those in the most rural and hard to serve areas receive the same high-quality, high-speed broadband as those in urban areas. We greatly appreciate Senators Welch and Marshall for introducing this legislation today and thank them for their leadership on this critical issue."
"Efforts to close the digital divide began nearly 25 years ago, and yet many rural families and businesses still lack access to a reliable internet connection simply because of where they choose to live. That's unacceptable. The bipartisan ReConnecting Rural America Act will make USDA's ReConnect Program permanent, and provide the tools and flexibilities necessary for rural providers to meet the unique challenges of building lasting broadband networks in rural areas. We appreciate Senator Welch and Senator Marshall's efforts to ensure that every family, no matter where they live, has access to broadband," said Louis Finkel, Senior Vice President of Government Relations of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.
"The Fiber Broadband Association applauds Senators Welch and Marshall for introducing the ReConnecting Rural America Act of 2023, which reauthorizes the very successful Rural Utilities Service ReConnect program. Over the years, the ReConnect program has provided funding to ensure more remote communities in America have the same broadband capabilities as urban areas, connecting them largely with reliable, fiber broadband networks. But, far too many rural communities are still stranded on the wrong side of the digital divide. The legislation introduced by the Senators addresses that important concern. By reauthorizing ReConnect and requiring that projects offer a minimum service build out speed of 100 Mbps symmetrical broadband service, the legislation will ensure that taxpayer dollars are used wisely and most importantly that rural Americans and their communities will receive the broadband connectivity that meets their needs today and tomorrow," said Gary Bolton, President and CEO, Fiber Broadband Association.
"Reliable and consistent broadband is a necessity, not a luxury. This essential service is integral to keeping rural communities thriving. Broadband is needed to attract the next generation of producers into agriculture and for keeping rural residents in rural communities. Farm Credit is committed to supporting our customers' success, and we thank Senators Welch and Marshall for their leadership to ensure rural communities and residents have access to high-speed broadband service, just as their urban and suburban peers do," Farm Credit Council CEO Todd Van Hoose said.
(Information courtesy Senator Marshall's Office.)