Sure, we love the Valley for its scenic foliage and pastoral plains, but we still need high-speed broadband access as much as our neighboring city-dwellers. Unfortunately, according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), more than one-third of Americans who reside in rural regions lack reliable, high-quality broadband connection, and many have to pay more for high-speed plans.
That’s why U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) are working to pass the Broadband Connections for Rural Opportunities Program Act, introduced today in an effort to help all of America log on and not get left behind in our digital economy.
“Reliable, fast Internet access isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity in the 21st century economy,” Senator Gillibrand said in a statement. “Lack of affordable broadband service cuts off families and businesses from critical services.”
The bipartisan legislation includes a plan to help fund a high-speed Internet infrastructure using both federal grants and loans. This sort of combination financing would provide sufficient resources to underserved rural areas, as well as assisting private-sector providers, state/local governments, and Native American tribes and other tribal organizations.
Grants would allow for up to 50 percent of a project’s cost, and up to 75 percent in more remote areas that require a higher need of service. Loan funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) is already available. If passed, it would authorize $50 million in funding per fiscal year to the RUS’ broadband programs, which is double the current allocated figure.
We will keep you updated as the legislation seeks Congressional approval.
UPDATE (1/27/17): On Thursday, January 26, Senator Gillibrand announced that up to $170 million in federal funding will be allocated to expand broadband access in undeserved rural regions of upstate New York. The money will be financed through the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Connect America Fund, an initiative to broaden voice and broadband services to communities where they are currently unavailable.