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Blue Dogs Push to Ensure Rural Broadband Funds Go Where They Are Most Needed

June 3, 2021 by TWN Staff

WASHINGTON – Blue Dog Coalition of House Democrats sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn on Wednesday, calling for the funds to expand broadband in the pending infrastructure legislation to be directed where they are needed most.

Specifically, the Blue Dogs are calling for the legislation to ensure that underserved and unserved communities are made a priority when it comes to the delivery of internet service, and not made to wait or come in second to other parts of the country.

“Lessons from recent history, such as the recovery from the 2009 financial crisis, can ensure we do right by rural and underserved communities,” the letter said. “Although the data following that recovery indicated that the country overall saw economic improvement up until the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the reality was that rural America did not see the same benefits as urban areas. This was, in part, due to a failure to deliver broadband to areas of the country where it was most needed.”

To avoid repeating these mistakes, the coalition said, the funds in an infrastructure bill to expand broadband must be sent where the need is greatest, and programs must have the flexibility to ensure that rural areas are not left out.

In addition to providing flexibility, implementation should not translate to a slower-tier of internet access just for rural Americans. The best technology should not only be available in the nation’s cities and suburbs, the Blue Dogs said.

“Throughout our nation’s history, both parties have recognized that innovation spurs the need to expand new infrastructure to rural America to keep our country at the cutting edge of international competition, such as rural electrification under President Franklin Roosevelt and the expansion of the interstate highway system under President Dwight Eisenhower,” the group continued. “If done right in the current recovery, investment to bring every community online would be a major step to strengthen the rural economy, address the rural health care crisis, and empower rural workers all while strengthening the larger American economy.”

The letter was sent under the leadership of Rep. Tom O’Halleran, co-chair of the Blue Dog Coalition and chair of the Blue Dog Task Force on Strengthening Rural America. In addition to the Arizona Democrat, the letter was signed by Reps. Sanford Bishop, of Georgia, Ed Case, of Hawaii, Jim Cooper, of Tennessee, Jim Costa, of California, Vicente Gonzalez, of Texas, Josh Gottheimer, of New Jersey, Stephanie Murphy, of Florida, Kurt Schrader, of Oregon, Abigail Spanberger, of Virginia, and Mike Thompson, of California.

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