House passes Spanberger amendment to increase funding for rural broadband
Rep. Abigail Spanberger today joined a majority of the House of Representatives in passing an appropriations bill that includes her bipartisan amendment to increase federal rural broadband funding by $55 million.
Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it received applications requesting a total of more than $635 million in loan-grant combination funding through the ReConnect Loan and Grant program, which partners with rural communities and businesses to expand access to high-speed internet in rural and underserved areas. However, this high demand means there is now a 3-to-1 ratio in federal funding dollars requested compared to funding dollars actually available for the ReConnect Program.
Last week, Spanberger successfully led the fight to include her amendment in the funding bill, which would provide a 10-percent funding increase for the ReConnect Program.
“Last week, we saw a clear, bipartisan mandate to expand high speed broadband internet access across our country’s rural communities. Rural homes, farms, and businesses need reliable access to broadband internet to remain competitive and become ultimately successful in our hyper-connected, fast-paced global economy—and demonstrating support for increased infrastructure investment in rural America should never be a partisan issue,” said Spanberger. “Today, I’m proud to vote for this appropriations package, which includes my bipartisan amendment to give rural communities greater access to ReConnect funding. Through increased federal support, rural residents in Central Virginia and across the country can begin to close the broadband gap, attract new employees and businesses, and give students a greater opportunity to succeed.”
“Broadband is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity. The American Farm Bureau Federation thanks Rep. Spanberger for her leadership and commitment to close the digital divide,” said RJ Karney, Congressional Relations Director, American Farm Bureau Federation. “The USDA ReConnect program greatly benefits farmers, ranchers, and rural communities by providing these rural communities with broadband connectivity.”
Last week, Spanberger spoke on the floor of the U.S. House to urge her colleagues to support this amendment. Click here to watch her full remarks, which included stories submitted by Central Virginians as part of Spanberger’s 2019 Rural Broadband Survey.
Spanberger led the effort to increase ReConnect funding by working with the House Appropriations Committee to identify cost offsets that would not negatively impact USDA. Additionally, she gathered a bipartisan group of 12 additional Democrats and Republicans to announce their support for the amendment.
“Investments in rural broadband create economic opportunities, improve education and health care services, and connect communities,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey. “Thanks to Congresswoman Spanberger’s hard work and tireless advocacy, our fiscal year 2020 appropriations bills include significant funding to deliver the promise of broadband to communities in Virginia and beyond. I look forward to continuing to work with Abigail to deliver results for the people, so that Virginians and every American can have a better shot at a better life.”
According to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) 2019 Broadband Deployment Report, one in four rural Virginians lacks access to fixed terrestrial broadband at speeds of 25 Mbps/3 Mbps. This digital divide can lead to consequences that impact educational and economic opportunities in rural America. For instance, according to an Associated Press analysis of U.S. Census data, an estimated 17 percent of U.S. students do not have reliable access to computers at home—and 18 percent of all students do not have access to broadband internet.
Spanberger’s amendment is cosponsored by Reps. Cindy Axne (D-IA-03), Emmanuel Cleaver, II (D-MO-05), Angie Craig (D-MN-02), Abby Finkenauer (D-IA-01), Jared Golden (D-IA-02), Ron Kind (D-WI-03), Susie Lee (D-NV-03), Denver Riggleman (R-VA-05), Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA-03), Chris Pappas (D-NH-01), Jeff Van Drew (D-NJ-02), and Peter Welch (D-VA-AL).