The House Committee on Appropriations voted to invest over $1 billion in the expansion of broadband service to provide economic development opportunities and improved education and health care services, an increase of $435 million over the previous year.
The increase in investment, which Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-06) fought to secure as a member of the Appropriations Committee, includes $990 million for the ReConnect program, which aims to increase access to broadband connectivity in underserved rural areas. These significant investments in broadband reflect a commitment to enabling Americans in rural communities to access digital tools necessary to improve health, educational, and economic outcomes.
“Too many rural communities in America have been left behind because our internet infrastructure hasn’t reached them,” said Rep. Kilmer. “Increasing investments to connect more communities to high-speed internet will help create more economic opportunities for more people in more places – that’s why this bill is so important. Rural broadband is almost like rural electrification was in decades past. We need these investments to create new jobs and businesses, empower students by placing new information at their fingertips, and help rural communities get in on the economic growth.”
“Mason PUD 3 appreciates the commitment of Representative Kilmer to find solutions for rural broadband expansion. The investments made by the House Appropriations Committee this year will make a big impact – and help rural communities in our region continue to make real progress toward their goals of building the infrastructure necessary for high-speed broadband,” said Joel Myer, Public Information & Government Relations Manager, Mason County PUD 3. “Public and private entities alike are working hard to ensure our citizens have the tools to personally and professionally successful, wherever they live, and we’re grateful for Rep. Kilmer’s partnership.”
The bill also included an effort by Rep. Kilmer to urge the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to take action to increase access to broadband on rural Tribal lands. That provision directs the USDA to work with tribal communities to better understand the unique infrastructure challenges they face and to ensure that tribal communities are not held at a competitive disadvantage when competing for broadband resources.
In addition, the bill called on the USDA to develop strategies that utilize telehealth technologies to help improve care options for seniors, expectant mothers, infants, and others in rural areas.