June 11, 2020 Press Release
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Representative Antonio Delgado (NY-19), member of the House Task Force on Rural Broadband, announced his support for the Rural Broadband Acceleration Act, introduced by Whip Jim Clyburn and Rep. Fred Upton. The Rural Broadband Acceleration Act is bipartisan legislation that directs the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to fund shovel-ready, high-speed internet projects immediately, so consumers can access broadband within a year. Roughly one in four rural households cannot connect to the internet, and it is often too slow and too expensive for the households who do have access.
“It is unacceptable that in the 21st century, there are communities across New York’s 19th Congressional District that still lack access to reliable high-speed internet. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen how essential broadband is, from homeschooling, to telemedicine, to our small businesses needing to connect to the marketplace. We must do everything we can to make sure our communities can get online,” said Delgado. “The Rural Broadband Acceleration Act will help bring high-speed internet projects to our rural areas as soon as possible. I’m glad to see this language included in the House-passed Heroes Act, and urge the Senate to take up this legislation as soon as possible.”
“The COVID-19 crisis has exposed the severity and magnitude of the rural-urban digital divide. Telework, telemedicine, and distance learning are impossible in areas without broadband access. Our bipartisan legislation will fund hundreds of rural broadband construction projects immediately,” House Majority Whip Clyburn said. “I have made it my mission to ensure high-speed internet is accessible and affordable to all, and seeing the Rural Broadband Acceleration Act signed into law as we continue the federal response to the COVID crisis is my top priority.”
“During the coronavirus crisis, millions of Americans have adjusted to spending more time at home – working, running their business, taking classes, and zooming with friends and family. But too many Americans have found themselves without access to dependable broadband services – especially in rural counties like in southwest Michigan – making those tasks nearly impossible to do. With so much uncertainty in today’s world, Americans should be able to be certain about this: affordable, reliable internet,” Congressman Upton said. “If we can pass this bipartisan bill and implement it, it might be one of the biggest leaps for rural America in our lifetime.”
The Rural Broadband Acceleration Act directs the FCC to accelerate the deployment of funds to bidders in the upcoming Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) that commit to: 1) build a gigabit tier broadband network; 2) begin construction within 6 months of receiving funding; and 3) provide internet service within a year.
Rep. Delgado has worked to make sure New York was eligible for RDOF funding of up to $20.4 billion to expand broadband in unserved rural areas. The initial RDOF Order, published in January 2020, excluded all of New York from being eligible for Phase 1 of RDOF ($16 billion). The Congressman led his colleagues in the New York delegation demanding that the FCC reverse this exemption, which resulted in a change in the Order to allow New York to participate in RDOF. Delgado continues to monitor the progress of the RDOF rollout, most recently inquiring after Charter Communication’s request for RDOF funding to be withheld in census blocks where they are obligated to build out service as part of their merger agreement.
In recent weeks, other rural phone and electric co-ops have also expressed support for the legislation. One hundred co-op fiber projects would result in 300,000 miles of fiber construction, passing more than 2 million rural homes, and 5 million rural residents. The economic impact is projected to be $8.25 billion of construction, approximately half of which would come from RDOF and half from the co-ops investing in their local communities. It is estimated that as many as 200 projects would take advantage of this expedited funding schedule. Bill text can be found here.