March 11, 2021

Manchin Introduces Bipartisan Legislation To Improve Broadband Access For Rural Students

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) led a bipartisan group of Senators in introducing the Connected Rural Schools Act to help close the digital disconnect for rural students. This bipartisan legislation will ensure that broadband and other internet accessibility technologies are eligible for funding from the existing Secure Rural Schools (SRS) Program.

“Access to reliable broadband is crucial in the 21st century and due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many West Virginian students have had to adjust to learning from home. This puts a spotlight on the need to expand broadband access across rural communities because we all know that it’s virtually nonexistent in many areas of our state. This bill helps improve broadband access for students in those rural areas by expanding the SRS program. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join our legislation and help ensure every student has access to the Internet— no matter where they live,” said Senator Manchin, Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

The Connected Rural Schools Act would expand the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program such that it can also fund broadband projects in rural areas that are related to education. The SRS program provides assistance to rural counties impacted by the decline in revenue from land use activities on federal lands. This legislation is another innovative way to enable federal investment in improving broadband access for rural students. Senator Manchin has previously called on Congress to pass a long-term reauthorization of the SRS program and, in 2019, secured a 2-year extension to the SRS program in the Fiscal Year 2020 Appropriations package, which provided more than $1.7 million last year for counties in West Virginia with Forest Service lands.