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house Bill H.R. 1328

Should an Office Coordinate Federal Broadband Resources for Rural Areas?

Argument in favor

High-speed internet is essential in today’s world. Access to jobs, education, healthcare services, and more depends on access to the internet at a reasonable speed and this bill brings rural America up to speed by streamlining access to federal broadband resources.

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05/08/2019
We need net neutrality as well as rural free broadband. We also need to make sure that we include Indigenous communities in the talks about installing broadband. We have a history of treating our Indigenous communities terribly and infrastructure is an example. We need to include them and make sure that they have reliable phone service and fast, high-speed internet. Here are some articles: (https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128004928) and (http://blog.nativepartnership.org/new-online-world-ahead-for-indian-reservations).
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burrkitty's Opinion
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05/08/2019
How about that net-neutrality we all want back? Hmm? But sure we can do this too. Internet is the modern UTILITY.
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Kodiwodi's Opinion
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05/08/2019
I’m quite rural. The access to broadband services is severely limited, the speeds are extremely low and the reliability of adequate signal strength is questionable at the very best. The cost is quite high for the services available. I would welcome better access and monitoring of these services by an office set up to do so. My single concern involves 5G as I wonder if we’ve done enough research on this technology. Oh and throw Ajit Pai in jail while you’re at it.
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Argument opposed

Federal efforts to expand rural broadband access simply don’t work, and the cost of expanding broadband to some rural areas is too high to justify the cost to the government. Additionally, there are already private sector efforts to bring broadband to rural areas.

Doug's Opinion
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05/08/2019
The free market will take care of this, if the need and demand are there.
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JTJ's Opinion
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05/08/2019
This is not the purpose of the government.
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RAN's Opinion
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05/08/2019
No more government! The market will handle it.
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      Committee on Energy and Commerce
    IntroducedFebruary 25th, 2019

What is House Bill H.R. 1328?

This bill — known as the ACCESS BROADBAND Act — would require the Dept. of Commerce to establish an Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. This office would serve as a single point of contact to streamline management of federal broadband resources across multiple agencies, creating a simpler process for small businesses and local economic developers to access information and funds for broadband deployment projects in underserved rural areas.

This office would:

  • Connect with communities that need access to high-speed internet and improved digital inclusion efforts;
  • Hold regional workshops to share best practices and effective strategies for promoting broadband access and adoption;
  • Develop targeted broadband training and presentations for various demographic communities through media;
  • Develop and distribute publications providing guidance to communities for expanding broadband access and adoption; and
  • Track construction and use of any broadband infrastructure built using federal support.

On an annual basis, the office would report on its work and:

  • The number of U.S. residents who received broadband as a result of federal broadband programs and the Universal Service Fund program
  • An estimate of broadband deployment efforts’ economic impacts on local economies.

Additionally, the office would consult with any agency offering a federal broadband support program in order to streamline the application process and create one application that may be submitted to apply for all federal broadband support programs.

The bill’s full title is the Advancing Critical Connectivity Expands Services, Small Business Resources, Opportunities, Access, and Data Based on Assessed Need and Demand (ACCESS BROADBAND) Act.

Impact

Rural communities; broadband providers; Department of Commerce; and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 1328

A CBO cost estimate for this bill is unavailable.

More Information

In-DepthRep. Paul Tonko (D-NY) reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress to create a simpler process for small businesses and local economic developers to access federal broadband resources:

“Reliable access to the internet is vital to our economy and way of life, whether for students doing homework, job seekers training for a new career, doctors reading a medical scan or entrepreneurs starting a small business. Despite its importance, federal resources supporting broadband expansion are poorly tracked with little coordination across agencies or departments that are doing this work, making it harder our local businesses and community leaders to access them. This bill is a step towards better broadband access for our communities and better government for all of us.”

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), who's one of this bill's Senate cosponsors, adds

“Far too many communities across Nevada still lack access to high speed broadband. The ACCESS BROADBAND Act enhances the federal government’s ability to support the expansion of wireless services and broadband infrastructure essential to helping underserved communities in Nevada, and across America get connected. I look forward to acting on this legislation to lay the groundwork for 5G networks that serve the needs of first responders, businesses and local school districts that need fast, reliable internet. Nevada is the Innovation State, and in order for us to continue being leaders, our communities must have access to high quality broadband that provides our communities with the 21st century infrastructure they need to thrive.”

Last Congress, Rep. Tonko introduced this bill to streamline management of federal broadband resources across multiple agencies and simplify the process for small businesses and local economic developers to access federal funds for broadband deployment projects:

“Broadband Internet access is often the difference between success and failure for students doing homework, job seekers training for a new career, doctors reading a medical scan or entrepreneurs starting a small business. However, to date the federal government has done a poor job of tracking broadband deployment. Investments are made with little accountability and oversight on behalf of the taxpayer. This bill will simplify the process for private and public sector leaders to tap into existing federal broadband resources and help ensure that a zip code does not define the economic potential of our students, doctors, entrepreneurs and the communities they call home.”

Last Congress, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) argued that that this bill is limited on substance, and falls short of giving the NTIA the resources it needs.

This bill has 19 bipartisan House cosponsors, including 10 Democrats and nine Republicans, in the 116th Congress. There's also a Senate companion, sponsored by Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) with the support of seven bipartisan cosponsors, including four Democrats and three Republicans.

Last Congress, this bill had 17 bipartisan House cosponsors, including 10 Democrats and seven Republicans. It passed the House on a voice vote, but didn't receive a Senate vote. The Fiber Broadband Association and USTelecom both support this bill.


Of NoteRural broadband is a critical pathway to global markets for agriculture and other industries. Farmers and ranchers depend on broadband just as much as they do on highways, railways, and waterways in order to access buyers for their products. Additionally, high-speed internet access has become a requirement for tapping into healthcare, educational services, government agencies, and new business opportunities. 

Despite this, according to the Federal Communications Commission, 39% of rural Americans lack access to broadband service, compared to only 4% of urban Americans. Across the country, 23 million Americans live in rural areas where there’s no broadband internet. And these numbers are likely to be significant understatements of the issue, due to to the way that connectivity statistics are compiled.

Without broadband, many rural residents must either rely on expensive, slow connections that may cost into the hundreds of dollars per month or go without internet access at all. This digital divide affects not only residents’ online pastimes, but also their chances at better living.

Areas without modern internet connections can’t attract new businesses, and their isolation discourages the enterprises they do have: ranchers who want to buy and sell cattle in online auctions, or farmers who could use the internet to monitor crops. Lack of broadband also disrupts businesses that use high-speed data transmission, including banks, insurance firms, and factories.

As rural America struggles to keep people and ideas in their communities, the quality of technology that’s available makes a difference to residents’ opportunities and willingness — and ability — to stay. The ability to participate in the digital economy, and even to gain digital know-how to enter the workplace, are critical to rural workers’ employability.

The economic difference that broadband makes is tangible: a 2015 study by university researchers in Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Texas who compared rural counties before and after getting high-speed internet services found that rural counties with more household connected to broadband had higher incomes and lower unemployment than those with fewer connections.

Roberto Gallardo, assistant director of the Purdue Center for Regional Development, likens broadband today to the railroad and highway infrastructure projects of the past:

“What we know off the bat is that if you don’t have broadband you will be left out. If you do have it, it really is analogous to the installation of a railroad 100 years ago or a highway 50 years ago. Broadband has that same potential to connect communities.”

Today, the rural broadband landscape is spotty at best. In some states, such as North and South Dakota, officials have done their best to give their residents fiber-optic network services. There are some states, such as Minnesota, where providers have come together to build infrastructure in the name of economic development. In Minnesota, 117 providers and state governments have worked together to provide grants and a flexible network of local not-for-profit organizations to slowly build out coverage. Then, in some other areas, there is broadband built out by rural electric cooperatives. Finally, there are some areas with nothing to connect them to the modern world at all, such as in Oregon, where 43 school districts in 10 counties still lack a fiber-optic connection.

Some experts, looking at the patchwork of needs across the country today, believe that a federal mandate like the Rural Electrification Act of 1936 is needed to bring the all areas to the same service level.

With that said, past federal efforts to expand rural broadband efforts haven’t been particularly successful. In 2009, the Obama administration earmarked $7 billion from the 2009 stimulus package for expanding rural broadband service. Half of the money — $3.5 billion — went to a program that the administration estimated would reach 840,000 households and businesses.

Nine years later, there still isn’t a tally of how many people were connected, and at what speeds. However, limited data suggests the program was not particularly successful. In Missouri, where broadband providers received $261 million of the stimulus money, the program was unsuccessful, and did not have the impact that was projected. Similarly, Big River Communications, a St. Louis-based telecommunications provider that collected $20 million in stimulus money to connect parts of southeast Missouri, initially set up a $14.99/month plan for students, seniors, and low-income households — but then brought its prices up to $49.99/month on a limited data plan and $99.99 for unlimited use for connections with a paltry two to seven Mbps per hour speed. Moreover, Big River’s current customer base of 4,000 subscribers in seven counties is far short of the 52,000 it estimated it would reach.


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: deepblue4you / iStock)

AKA

ACCESS BROADBAND Act

Official Title

To establish the Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth, and for other purposes.

    We need net neutrality as well as rural free broadband. We also need to make sure that we include Indigenous communities in the talks about installing broadband. We have a history of treating our Indigenous communities terribly and infrastructure is an example. We need to include them and make sure that they have reliable phone service and fast, high-speed internet. Here are some articles: (https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128004928) and (http://blog.nativepartnership.org/new-online-world-ahead-for-indian-reservations).
    Like (42)
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    The free market will take care of this, if the need and demand are there.
    Like (19)
    Follow
    Share
    How about that net-neutrality we all want back? Hmm? But sure we can do this too. Internet is the modern UTILITY.
    Like (36)
    Follow
    Share
    I’m quite rural. The access to broadband services is severely limited, the speeds are extremely low and the reliability of adequate signal strength is questionable at the very best. The cost is quite high for the services available. I would welcome better access and monitoring of these services by an office set up to do so. My single concern involves 5G as I wonder if we’ve done enough research on this technology. Oh and throw Ajit Pai in jail while you’re at it.
    Like (19)
    Follow
    Share
    What is needed is the broadband/internet equivalent of the Rural Electrification Administration. That depression-era agency brought electricity out of the cities to the rural areas of this country. We did it then, why not now?
    Like (17)
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    This is not the purpose of the government.
    Like (13)
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    No more government! The market will handle it.
    Like (10)
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    Rural “High-Speed Access” is necessary for all. High-speed internet is essential in today’s world. Access to jobs, education, healthcare services, and more depends on access to the internet at a reasonable speed and this bill brings rural America up to speed by streamlining access to federal broadband resources. SneakyPete 👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻. 5*7*19.....
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    This should have been handled before industry crony Ajit Pai gutted net neutrality. Major conflicts of interest across this administration which only make it more difficult for real solutions for Americans.
    Like (7)
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    High speed internet is essential for today’s farmers because they have to keep up on the prices & futures for the products they buy & sell. This is something our country needs. NOT another war or a wall
    Like (7)
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    It can only creat jobs.
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    Access to broadband internet is as essential as water, heat, and telephone in this day and age. If you don't have it, you can fall behind in school or work.
    Like (6)
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    Broadband for rural areas is essential to the prosperity of our nation today and going forward. This bill is important and deserves positive consideration.
    Like (6)
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    I wanna say yes...I DO NOT TRUST THE MORON IN THE WHITE HOUSE!!...OR HIS LACKEYS!!!!!
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    First we need net neutrality then add rural free broadband.
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    In return for Federal licenses, the broadband companies should be required to provide service to ALL areas of the country.
    Like (6)
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    Plus, Mr. Walden, you should have never voted against net neutrality l!!!!!!
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    We’ve been talking about rural broadband for a decade. When will we make actual progress?
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    As a person who lives in one of those rural areas, it would be great to have better access to high speed internet. But it doesn’t have to come at the cost of the taxpayer or need help from the government. The market is already pushing this along; throwing tax dollars at it won’t make it happen any faster unless the government buys and owns the lines and towers; that turns the internet into a utility. No thanks!
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    Vote yes.
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