WASHINGTON – Representatives Paul Tonko (D-NY) and Susan W. Brooks (R-IN) heralded passage of H.R. 1328: the ACCESS BROADBAND Act in the House by a unanimous voice vote today. This bipartisan legislation would help expand broadband access in underserved areas and create a simpler process for small businesses and local economic developers to access federal broadband resources.
“Reliable broadband internet access is an integral part of our American economy and modern way of life,” said Rep. Tonko. “Whether for students doing homework, job seekers training for a new career, doctors reading a medical scan or entrepreneurs starting a small business, we need to make sure nobody is being left behind. Sadly, despite the vital importance of internet access today, federal resources supporting broadband expansion are poorly tracked with little coordination across agencies or departments. As a result, those resources are left out of reach for many of our local businesses and community leaders who need them. The House took an important step forward today by advancing this common-sense bill. The Senate must act urgently to pass this critical legislation and move America closer to faster, more reliable broadband access for our communities and every American.”
Speaking in support of the bill on the House Floor, Rep. Brooks added: “People in every state of our country, including Indiana, need better access to the internet and we must do more to support our communities in an age where internet connectivity is crucial to success. This bill is about bringing the benefits of broadband communications into the lives of our constituents and I am proud Congress is acting on a solution to help address a problem facing communities across the country.”
Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle (D-PA) praised the practical legislation: “This bipartisan bill will help connect communities without high-speed Internet access by pushing the federal government to get more bang for the buck when we invest in broadband Internet infrastructure. We commend Rep. Tonko for his great leadership on this bill, which creates an Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. We now call on our colleagues in the Senate to act swiftly on this common-sense, bipartisan measure.”
The bill would also fund local training workshops to help small businesses and economic developers put federal broadband resources to work. A companion bill was introduced in the Senate by Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Doug Jones (D-AL), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN). Similar legislation passed in the House in the 115th Congress but was never taken up in the Senate.
“With House passage of the ACCESS BROADBAND Act, communities across Nevada are one step closer to finally being able to access high speed broadband,” said Cortez Masto. “I hope that my colleagues in the Senate will soon follow suit on this bipartisan legislation that enhances the federal government’s ability to support the expansion of wireless services and broadband infrastructure essential to helping underserved communities. Nevada is the Innovation State and our communities must have access to high quality broadband that provides Americans with the 21st century infrastructure they need to thrive.”
A spokesperson for USTelecom offered strong support for the legislation:“Reps. Tonko and Brooks get what it takes to bring connectivity to the truly unserved parts of our country. They understand that deploying broadband and increasing internet access across America requires collaboration between providers and government and a smart use of valuable – and scarce – federal dollars. The Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth achieves two important deployment goals: streamlining provider access to essential government funds and avoiding network overbuilding. We hope the Senate follows the lead of the House and takes up Senator Cortez Masto’s companion bill to promote accountability, bridge the digital divide, and bring connectivity to the consumers who need broadband the most.”
The ACCESS BROADBAND Act:
- Stands for Advancing Critical Connectivity Expands Service, Small Businesses Resources, Opportunities, Access, and Data Based on Assessed Need and Demand
- Establishes an Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).
- Directs this office to simplify access for small businesses and local communities, possibly including small business workshops and other support resources.
- Streamlines process for small businesses & local governments to apply for federal broadband assistance; improves coordination across government and the private sector.