Reps. Huffman, Thompson, and Nolan Introduce the Rural Broadband Infrastructure Investment Act

December 02, 2015

Washington, DCCongressmen Jared Huffman (D-CA), Mike Thompson (D-CA), and Rick Nolan (D-MN) today introduced the Rural Broadband Infrastructure Investment Act, which would unlock new opportunities for broadband deployment on California’s North Coast and in rural communities across America. The bill would make North Coast communities eligible for $670 million in federal broadband financing; promote regional broadband solutions by allowing the Rural Utility Service (RUS) to offer broadband grants in addition to loans and loan guarantees; and increase overall RUS broadband investment to $50 million annually from $25 million. The legislation builds on the successful legacy of the Rural Electrification Act, which brought power and telephone service to rural communities across America during the New Deal. (A PDF of the legislation can be found here.) 

“High speed broadband is essential to economic development, public safety, and a vibrant quality of life. This legislation is a step towards ensuring that our rural and remote North Coast communities are not left behind,” Huffman said. “Our government’s promise of universal service should mean just that: high-quality, high-speed broadband service for every American household. Investment in broadband today will provide a better future for our communities tomorrow.” 

“The USDA Rural Utilities Service programs have the potential to play an important role in broadband infrastructure expansion for our rural areas. However, we see reform of the programs as necessary to removing barriers to their use in Mendocino County. The Rural Broadband Infrastructure Investment Act would open the door to greater broadband investment potential for our North Coast communities. We thank Congressman Huffman for his leadership, and applaud his efforts to make these programs more successful and effective across the North Coast,” said Trish Steel, Executive Committee Chair of the Broadband Alliance of Mendocino County. 

“No one’s access to high-speed broadband – and the benefits it brings to economic development, public safety and health care – should be limited by where they call home,” said Congressman Mike Thompson. “Expanding broadband to rural America, as this bill does, will support more jobs and greater access to high-speed internet for our schools, hospitals, libraries and community centers – and it will help ensure a better future for kids and grandkids growing up in rural communities.” 

“Congressman Huffman’s bill marks an important step forward. It’s time to bring high-speed broadband to all of rural America. More than half of all rural Americans are without high-speed broadband and we need to work together to change that. Here in rural America, high-speed broadband is essential to our ability to compete – to help start new businesses, create new jobs, attract new people and provide the education and health care services to essential to our quality of life,” said Congressman Rick Nolan. 

Huffman has been an outspoken advocate of broadband deployment on the North Coast and across rural America. In January of 2015, he formally invited President Obama, who has repeatedly highlighted the importance of rural broadband deployment, to visit the North Coast and meet firsthand with people on the frontline of closing the digital divide in rural America. More recently, the Congressman wrote to the Federal Communications Commission Chairman Wheeler requesting that he implement strong regulations to protect aging North Coast telecommunications infrastructure and convened a summit on the status of broadband on the North Coast and next steps to ensuring universal access.