A bipartisan group of Senators recently introduced legislation to merge USDA broadband programs. New Mexico Democrat Ben Ray Luján and South Dakota Republican John Thune reintroduced the Rural Internet Improvement Act. The legislation would streamline and bolster USDA Rural Development broadband programs and ensure their funding is targeted to rural areas that need it the most.
Senator Thune says, “Our bipartisan legislation would help bridge the digital divide by improving USDA’s ReConnect Program to ensure its funding goes to truly unserved areas.” The Rural Internet Improvement Act would: merge and codify the popular Rural e-Connectivity Pilot Program, or ReConnect program, with USDA’s traditional broadband loan and grant program.
The legislation would also ensure ReConnect funding is going to areas most in need of reliable broadband service by limiting funding to areas where at least 90 percent of households lack access to broadband service. Finally, the bill would Improve coordination between USDA and the Federal Communications Commission on broadband programs.