WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), ranking member of the Subcommittee on Communications, Media, and Broadband, today led U.S. Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) in introducing the bipartisan Rural Connectivity Advancement Program (RCAP) Act of 2021, legislation that would dedicate a portion of proceeds from congressionally mandated spectrum auctions to be used for the buildout of broadband networks, which would help strengthen connectivity in rural communities throughout the country.
“Access to high-speed broadband services is critical, now more than ever before,” said Thune. “This bipartisan legislation would provide the Federal Communications Commission with the necessary resources to continue bridging the digital divide in rural America. I strongly support finding common-sense ways to effectively and efficiently deliver reliable broadband services to Americans who need it, and our bill is a step in the right direction.”
“Access to quality, high-speed internet is a necessity in today’s economy,” said Hassan. “That is why I’m glad to join with Senator Thune in introducing this bipartisan bill that will build on my past bipartisan work to expand rural broadband networks and bridge the urban-rural digital divide. I urge my colleagues to pass this bill, and I will continue working across the aisle to ensure that Granite State families and small businesses have the resources that they need to thrive.”
“Expanding rural America’s access to high-speed broadband is critical to making certain all Americans have the capability to compete in today’s digital economy,” said Sen. Moran. “This legislation supports increased deployment of reliable broadband in Kansas and across the country by providing additional resources to the FCC to target underserved areas and boost connectivity.”
“Bringing quality broadband services to all corners of Nevada is a priority of mine, and this bipartisan legislation will help us ensure resources for rural areas will be there to connect our communities - boosting small businesses, creating jobs, and making sure our students can access the educational resources they need,” said Cortez Masto. “I’ll continue to work on bipartisan solutions that will close the digital divide in Nevada’s rural areas, and strengthen their economies.”
“Successful existing programs like the FCC’s Universal Service Fund are playing a critical role right now in helping providers deploy and sustain high-speed broadband in rural areas,” said Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of NTCA - The Rural Broadband Association. “NTCA therefore endorses the Rural Connectivity Advancement Program Act, which looks thoughtfully both to enable new initiatives and leverage existing programs to support the buildout and operation of broadband networks. On behalf of NTCA’s members, I thank Senators Thune, Hassan, Moran and Cortez Masto for their leadership on this important issue. We look forward to continuing to work with them and other policymakers to connect more Americans to high-speed, future-proof broadband service.”
“NATE thanks Senators Thune, Hassan, Moran, and Cortez Masto for their leadership in introducing the Rural Connectivity Advancement Program Act in the 117th Congress,” said Todd Schlekeway, president & CEO of NATE. “NATE member companies are on the front lines of deployment, working on a daily basis to close the digital divide. The Association is proud to endorse this legislation that will ultimately provide an infusion of funds from proceeds generated from congressionally mandated spectrum auctions to promote broadband deployment services and communications infrastructure expansion.”
“The Rural Connectivity Advancement Program Act should be a priority for Congress this session as we’ve reached a tipping point in our society where access to advanced broadband is no longer a convenience but an economic necessity,” said Gary Bolton, president and CEO of the Fiber Broadband Association. “Giving rural communities the ability to deploy fiber broadband as a means to improve local GDP, increase home values, support vital services such as telehealth, support 5G expansion, and underpin remote work and learning has the full support of the Fiber Broadband Association and its members.”
“Policies that focus on bringing infrastructure to unserved or unconnected parts of the country make good sense. Senator Thune, Hassan, Moran and Cortez Masto understand the value of 21st century connectivity and the power and promise of broadband – especially for unserved parts of rural America,” said Jonathan Spalter, president and CEO of USTelecom — The Broadband Association. “This bill recognizes the essential public-private partnership necessary to deploy high-speed broadband to every corner of the country and narrow the digital divide.”
“We thank Senator Thune for his leadership and Senators Hassan, Moran and Cortez Masto for their support in introducing the Rural Connectivity Advancement Program Act of 2021, and we commend their focus on closing the digital divide,” said Kelly Cole, senior vice president of government affairs of CTIA. “Our members stand committed to ensuring all Americans have access to broadband and continue to rollout 5G networks in communities big and small across the country.”
“Today’s introduction by Senators Thune, Hassan, Moran, and Cortez Masto of the ‘Rural Connectivity Advancement Program Act of 2021’ puts forward a solid common sense and flexible solution toward eradicating the rural divide,” said Christina Mason, vice president of government affairs of WISPA. “We are encouraged by the bill’s focus on connecting rural communities to infrastructure capable of delivering reliable high-speed broadband, which COVID has shown to be more important than ever before. Internet access helped America weather the storm and WISPA’s 700-plus Internet service provider members have proudly worked overtime to keep millions of Americans in the most remote areas of this nation connected during very difficult times. We believe no one should be left to compete in a 21st century economy without access to broadband.”
If enacted, RCAP would:
Set aside 10 percent of the net proceeds from spectrum auctions mandated by Congress for the buildout of broadband networks;
Require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to utilize the funds provided by RCAP to address gaps that remain in broadband internet access service coverage in high-cost rural areas;
Allow the FCC to use the funds provided by RCAP in a technology-neutral manner to address shortfalls in sufficient funding of existing USF High-Cost Programs for the buildout of broadband services;
Require the FCC to consider the broadband internet access service needs of residents of tribal lands; and
Require the FCC to produce an annual report on the distribution of funds established under this act.
Thune first introduced RCAP during the 116th Congress.