Blue Dogs to Play Key Role on House Rural Broadband Task Force

May 15, 2019 by Dan McCue

House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., has launched a new House Task Force on Rural Broadband to provide coordination and leadership to end the rural-digital divide.

The Task Force will work to advance solutions to ensure all Americans have access to high-speed internet by 2025.

Several members of the Blue Dog Coalition, a caucus of moderate, fiscally-responsible Democrats, have joined the task force, including Representatives Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., and Xochitl Torres Small, D-N.M., co-chairs of the Blue Dog Task Force on Rural Opportunity.

Other members of the Blue Dog Coalition participating on Representative Clyburn’s task force are Representatives Tom O’Halleran, D-Ariz., Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., and Collin Peterson, D-Minn.

The announcement coincides with the 7th annual Infrastructure Week and comes on the heels of a bipartisan agreement with President Trump to develop a $2 trillion infrastructure bill.

“High-speed internet is an essential service in America today — yet too many of our fellow citizens in rural communities are being left behind. I have heard numerous stories of families traveling many miles to places where their children can access the internet to do their homework,” Clyburn said on Tuesday.

“It’s unacceptable in 2019 that many rural communities have limited to no access to the internet. If rural America is to thrive in the 21st century information economy, it must have affordable and accessible internet service to every community,” he added.

Despite more than $60 billion in public funds that have been invested to bring broadband to rural America, the FCC reports 25 million rural Americans are still without high-speed internet access.

The task force will consult with key stakeholders, including rural advocates, market participants, local governments, and administration officials to develop strategies to eliminate digital deserts and ensure rural Americans can thrive in the 21st century information economy.

“The future success of our rural communities depends on the infrastructure investments we make today,” said Representative Spanberger. “That’s why I am committed to working in the House to expand high-speed broadband internet access across Central Virginia and throughout rural America.

“As a member of the new Rural Broadband Task Force, I look forward to advancing effective legislation and advocating on behalf of our rural families, entrepreneurs, and educators,” she said. “Reliable access to the internet is a vital component of staying economically competitive in our hyper-connected world, and all Americans should be able to experience these opportunities—no matter their zip code. As we mark National Infrastructure Week, I’m urging my colleagues to include broadband internet in this larger conversation and to pursue bipartisan legislation to help address the connectivity concerns of our rural neighbors.”

Representative Torres Small, whose district covers almost half the state of New Mexico, said rural broadband is one of the biggest infrastructure needs of this country.

“In an increasingly digital world, broadband is no longer a luxury, but a modern necessity,” she said. “It is how our children do their homework, how artists and small business owners expand their reach and thrive, and how rural elderly can stay healthy by using long distance health care. New Mexico ranks among the states least connected to good, reliable internet and as a member of the new Rural Broadband Task Force, I’m committed to working with my colleagues to ensure our rural communities in New Mexico and across the country have access to affordable internet.”

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