Rural Broadband Caucus End of Year Update
As the 115th Congress comes to a close, the Co-Chairs of the House Rural Broadband Caucus released a joint statement, to review the past year and share news for 2019.
WASHINGTON, DC – As the 115th Congress comes to a close, the Co-Chairs of the House Rural Broadband Caucus— Congressmen Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Peter Welch (D-VT), Bob Latta (R-OH), Mark Pocan (D-WI), and David Loebsack (D-IA) –released the joint statement below, to review the past year and share news for 2019:
“We send our heartfelt congratulations to our outgoing co-chair, Senator-elect Kevin Cramer, and we thank him for his tireless efforts here in the People’s House fighting to expand broadband access in rural America. We look forward to having a closer partner on the other side of the Capitol to continue this fight with us as we move into the new year.
“We’d also like to welcome our incoming co-chair, Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA). Rob is already a member of the Rural Broadband Caucus, and has been a staunch advocate for closing the digital divide in this country. As Co-Chair, he will bring a wealth of experience and additional perspective as we look to make even more progress in the 116th Congress.”
Some of the House Rural Broadband Caucus achievements during the 115th Congress include:
· Appropriations for FY2018 that provides $625 million for rural broadband deployment. The bill included RAY BAUM’S Act and the MOBILE NOW Act, and it consolidated duplicative programs to better foster coordination between federal agencies and between federal and state governments. à One of the measures included in the RAY BAUM’S Act was H.R. 1546, the Rural Wireless Access Act (introduced by Rep. Loebsack in March 2017), which requires the FCC to establish a consistent method of collection coverage data.
· The 2018 Farm Bill included additional resources for broadband deployment and better government coordination, with respect to the Rural Utility Service program. à The Farm Bill was signed into law on December 20, 2018 and included H.R. 4881, the Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act (introduced by Reps. Latta and Loebsack in January 2018), which requires the FCC to create a Task Force for reviewing the connectivity and technology needs of America’s precision agriculture.
· Several pieces of legislation were introduced that seek to bolster broadband access across America, such as: H.R. 1814, the Rural Spectrum Accessibility Act (introduced by Reps. Kinzinger and Loebsack in March 2017) and H.R. 4232, the Broadband Connections for Rural Opportunities Program (B-CROP) Act (introduced by Reps. Pocan and Elise Stefanik in December 2017).
· Members of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology held a hearing in July 2018 with the FCC Chairman and current commissioners to get an update on how the FCC is working to close the digital divide between urban and rural communities.
In looking ahead to 2019, the House Rural Broadband Caucus co-chairs said:
“We have much to be proud of this year, but we know we have plenty of work ahead of us. As we look to the 116th Congress, we will continue to advocate for increased resources—particularly in a potential infrastructure package—along with program streamlining and enhanced oversight to ensure these funds are being spent wisely and are targeted to those with poor service or no service at all. Ensuring access to broadband is a priority for our caucus and we look forward to getting back to work on January 3rd.”