Manchin, Cornyn Reintroduce Bill To Expand Broadband Access In Rural America
Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and John Cornyn (R-TX) reintroduced the bipartisan Eliminate the Digital Divide Act, to distribute $10 billion to states to build out broadband infrastructure in unserved areas. This legislation will also create a process to deliver funds directly to states based on their proportion of unserved areas and includes a $1 billion set-aside for high cost areas like West Virginia.
“Now more than ever, access to reliable broadband services is critical for businesses, learning, healthcare and daily life. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the long-standing issue of reliable internet access across rural America,” said Senator Manchin. “I’m proud to work with my colleague Senator Cornyn to reintroduce the bipartisan Eliminate the Digital Divide Act, which would distribute $10 billion directly to states based on the proportion of unserved areas in each state. For years, West Virginia has failed to see the benefits of federal programs that often serve the most easily accessible areas. That’s why my bill also includes $1 billion for high cost areas like West Virginia where the cost to build broadband infrastructure is more expensive due to mountainous terrain and other factors. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join our legislation to help bring essential broadband access to every American, regardless of where they live.”
"As we increasingly depend on digital communication to work, learn, and stay connected, we must not leave those without access to broadband in the dark," said Senator Cornyn. "This bill will help bridge the digital divide and ensure Texans have access to more affordable broadband options across the state. Allowing governors, not bureaucrats in Washington, to direct broadband dollars is crucial to ensuring Texans are connected."
Previous programs to expand broadband access have worked as a reverse auction where the lowest bidder wins, which has disadvantaged small providers and high cost areas where it is more expensive to build out broadband infrastructure. The bipartisan Eliminate the Digital Divide Act will create a clear process to distribute funds directly to states based on their proportion of unserved areas, establish guidelines for the program and require the FCC to create an online platform for consumers to learn more about and determine if they are eligible to receive internet subsidies.
The Eliminate the Digital Divide Act will also:
- Require the FCC to update their coverage maps to reflect the Broadband Data Act
- Allow local and state governments to challenge the FCC maps
- Include a $1 billion high-cost set aside for states where the cost to build broadband infrastructure is more expensive
A timeline of Senator Manchin’s efforts to expand broadband in West Virginia can be found below or here.
Bill text can be found here.
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