uscapitolA bi-partisan Congressional Rural Broadband Caucus plans to focus on bridging the rural-urban digital divide. According to press material, the group will “facilitate discussion, educate Members of Congress and staff and develop policy solutions.”

Four Congressmen will serve as co-chairmen, including Kevin Cramer (R- N.D.), Bob Latta (R-Ohio), Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.), and Peter Welch (D-Vermont).

Rural Broadband Caucus
“Access to reliable, high-speed Internet service is vital to economic growth in communities across America,” said Pocan in a press release. “Whether it is for commerce, education or public safety needs, broadband service allows individuals and businesses in rural communities to take advantage of new technologies and stay connected to a 21st Century economy.”

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Pocan noted that residents in parts of his district experience speeds as low as 1 Mbps and that several communities have publicly adopted resolutions voicing concerns over the lack of quality broadband service.

Other Representatives that plan to participate on the committee include:

  • Mike Bost (R-Illinois)
  • Doug LaMalfa (R-California)
  • Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa)
  • Frank Lucas (R-Oklahoma)
  • James McGovern (D-Massachusetts)
  • Luke Messer (R-Indiana)
  • Rick Nolan (D-Minnesota)
  • Rob Woodall (R-Georgia)

News of the caucus creation comes just days after the FCC adopted an annual broadband progress report stating that broadband was not being deployed in a timely manner. The Connect America Fund program aims to help ensure that all Americans have access to affordable broadband but the parameters of a CAF program for the nation’s smaller telecom companies have not yet been defined, although the FCC continues to work toward that goal.

In a statement, Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association said she applauded the creation of the Rural Broadband Caucus and encouraged the caucus to look for opportunities to shape policies that build on existing federal programs that have contributed to [community-based telecom] providers’ success, including the Universal Service Fund.”

She also noted the importance of not only ensuring that broadband services are delivered to unserved rural communities but also ensuring that programs are “sustainable to handle the changing needs of rural consumers and Internet-enabled technologies.”

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