NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association this month issued a statement endorsing the ReConnecting Rural America Act, as introduced to Congress by Senators Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and Roger Marshall (R-Kan.).
The bill would make several key improvements to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) ReConnect Program to ensure rural, unserved communities receive the same level of service available to urban customers.
Per an NTCA press release, key provisions in the bill include setting the minimum standard level of service at 100/100 Mbps; and defining areas eligible for deployment as those where 75% of locations lack 100/20 Mbps service.
NTCA further notes the bill also gives priority to projects with 90% unserved areas; only makes grants available in such areas; and prioritizes awards to providers with at least 5 years of service in rural areas in the state where a project is proposed.
NTCA CEO Shirley Bloomfield commented:
“As small broadband providers in rural areas work tirelessly to bridge the digital divide, the ReConnect program has been an important resource to get the job done. The ReConnecting Rural America Act improves upon this already successful program to better target funding where it is needed most, recognizes that experience matters when it comes to delivering rural broadband, and ensures that those in the most rural and hard to serve areas receive the same high-quality, high-speed broadband as those in urban areas. We greatly appreciate Senators Welch and Marshall for introducing this legislation today and thank them for their leadership on this critical issue.”
The following USDA video session provides tips for operators using the ReConnect application system, a live demo of the application, how to get started, and additional information needed to submit an application.