U.S. Senator Gardner Introduces Bill to Immediately Fund Rural Broadband Deployment

The DEPLOY Broadband Act will immediately provide billions for rural broadband and ensure additional future funding

Washington, D.C. – On July 23rd, U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) introduced legislation to immediately fund broadband deployment in unserved and rural areas. The Developing Economic Prosperity and Linking Our Youth through (DEPLOY) Broadband Act will appropriate $6.5 billion to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for broadband buildout in unserved areas. It also permanently establishes a minimum 10 percent rural dividend for future spectrum auctions and ensures that funding cannot be combined with any other funds at the FCC.

“This health crisis has laid bare the digital divide that exists in many of our rural communities. It’s estimated that more than 65,000 students in Colorado live in homes without any internet access, roughly eight percent of Colorado’s entire student population,” said Senator Gardner. “That’s not acceptable with so many relying on broadband to receive an education, telecommute, and access healthcare. This legislation will dedicate immediate funding to build out rural broadband in unserved and rural areas throughout Colorado and the country and ensure there is a permanent allocation for rural broadband into the future.”

“The Colorado Telecommunications Association (CTA) represents more than two-dozen small rural companies in Colorado providing reliable and affordable broadband-capable networks. Sen. Gardner has been a strong supporter of rural broadband issues for many years, earning CTA’s 2016 Rural Broadband Leadership Award. We appreciate his continued support by introducing legislation (DEPLOY Broadband Act) to provide additional funding for those rural areas who still lack broadband access and ensuring there is coordination with other funding agencies to prevent overbuilding of existing networks. Now more than ever access to broadband is critical for work, school, healthcare, information and social interactions,” said Pete Kirchhof, Executive Vice President of the Colorado Telecommunications Association.

“NTCA greatly appreciates Senator Gardner’s commitment to advancing broadband deployment in rural America. This bill would complement existing efforts to expand connectivity in rural communities and provide a steady flow of resources to help the FCC build upon the successes of programs that today promote the deployment and sustainability of rural networks. We thank Sen. Gardner and look forward to working with Congress as it considers initiatives to expand and sustain broadband deployment across America,” said Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association.

“I thank Senator Gardner for continued efforts to close the digital divide and expand mobile broadband. The DEPLOY Broadband Act could provide another needed source of funding, and CCA supports using a portion of proceeds from spectrum auctions to help deploy mobile broadband services throughout rural America,” said Steven K. Berry, President and CEO of the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA).

“The COVID pandemic has heightened the need to ensure that all Americans can access reliable broadband service and the only way to close the access gap is to focus on areas where broadband service currently does not exist. That is why we welcome efforts like the DEPLOY Broadband Act which ensure that immediate federal resources are directed specifically to building networks in areas that are currently unserved. We applaud Sen. Gardner’s thoughtful approach to this important issue which will make a meaningful difference in connecting more Americans to broadband service,” said NCTA—The Internet & Television Association.

“We applaud Sen. Gardner for introducing this legislation to fund more and better broadband networks in rural areas that do not have adequate service today. Universal broadband connections have always been important, but we’ve seen this need even more clearly since the beginning of the COVID-19 emergency. The small, rural broadband providers we represent welcome new funding opportunities to help them reach the unserved,” said Derrick Owens, Senior Vice President of Government & Industry Affairs, WTA — Advocates for Rural Broadband.

Background:

  • After a hearing held by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Gardner called for greater broadband access in unserved and underserved areas in Colorado.
  • Gardner called for a concentrated effort to make rural broadband a reality on the Senate floor in May 2020.
  • In April 2020, Colorado healthcare providers received more than $850,000 from the FCC through the CARES Act for telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • In an April 2020 op-ed, Gardner wrote about the need to provide broadband for rural communities.
  • In March 2020, the Senate Commerce Committee passed the ACCESS BROADBAND Act, bipartisan legislation Gardner introduced to establish a single point of contact office to streamline management and oversight of federal broadband resources across multiple agencies.
  • In December 2019, the Senate Commerce Committee passed Gardner’s measure to provide substantial funding for rural broadband by ensuring at least 10 percent of the sale from a C-band spectrum would be allocated for rural buildout in unserved and underserved areas.

Cory Gardner is a member of the U.S. Senate serving Colorado. He sits on the Energy & Natural Resources Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, the Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee, and is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy

By Brian Allmer - The BARN

Brian Allmer & the BARN are members of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB), the Colorado FFA Foundation, the Colorado 4H Foundation, the Colorado Farm Show Marketing Committee, 1867 Club Board Member, Denver Ag & Livestock Club Member, the Weld County Fair Board, the Briggsdale FFA Advisory Council, Briggsdale 4H Club Beef Leader & Founder / Coordinator of the Briggsdale Classic Open Jackpot Show.