House Republicans, Reps. Bill Johnson (R-OH) and Rob Wittman (R-VA) introduced the Serving Rural America Act this week. The measure would create a five-year pilot grant program at the FCC, authorizing $100 million a year, for a total of $500 million over five years, to expand broadband service to unserved areas.
“The coronavirus outbreak didn’t create this crisis, but it has highlighted it,” said Johnson. “If solutions like this aren’t enacted soon, there won’t be a rural broadband problem left to solve, because people will leave rural America and move to places where they and their children have access to the ever-expanding digital world.”
“In this time of crisis, demand for high speed broadband has never been greater,” said Wittman. Some 19 million Americans lack high speed internet, according to the lawmakers. “The grant program created by this legislation encourages coordination between providers to better determine the available service in a proposed service area and prevents overbuilding by limiting federal broadband support to one provider in a rural area,” said Wittman.
More information on the Act includes:
- To be eligible, an internet service provider is required to partner with a locality, city, county, wireless authority, or planning district commission to ensure the needs and input of residents are included.
- Prioritizes funding to areas without 25 Mbps/3 Mbps.
- Includes important measures to ensure interagency coordination and safeguards against overbuilding of other federally funded broadband projects.
- Features a challenge process that allows the public or other existing service providers in the proposed service area to submit a challenge to the FCC, to determine whether the proposed project would duplicate existing broadband service in the proposed service area.
- Includes important measures to improve mapping, including: analysis of third party data, crowd-sourcing, and site specific testing in service areas where mapping data has been contested.
- Instructs the FCC to report to Congress annually on the progress of the program based on buildout data provided by recipients.
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