Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, today announced that after her consistent push, her bipartisan Broadband Connections for Rural Opportunities Program Act (B-CROP Act), was included as a provision in the final Senate-passed version of the Farm Bill. This bipartisan legislation, introduced by Senator Gillibrand and Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), would expand the current USDA Rural Utilities Service Broadband Program to allow for new grant funding for rural broadband projects in high-need areas. Nationally, nearly a quarter of rural Americans and nearly a third of tribal residents lack access to broadband internet service.
“I’m very pleased that my bipartisan legislation to bring high-speed internet to our rural communities was included in the final Senate-passed version of the Farm Bill,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Reliable, high-speed internet access isn’t a luxury anymore – it is a necessity and one of the most important tools that communities need in order to thrive. Our schools, hospitals, and businesses rely on the internet in order to conduct their daily work, and it’s unacceptable that some of our rural communities still don’t have access to this essential technology. My bipartisan legislation would help bring much-needed federal funding to rural communities that want to install broadband internet but don’t have the resources to do it on their own. I am so proud that my provision was included in the final Farm Bill that has passed on the Senate floor, and I urge my colleagues in the House of Representatives to quickly pass it into law.”
Gillibrand worked with her colleagues on the Senate Agriculture Committee to include provisions from her B-CROP Act in the final Farm Bill that target federal funds to rural and tribal areas in the highest of need, allowing for grants of up to 50 percent of a project’s cost, and up to 75 percent for remote, high-need areas, to be awarded in combination with the current loan funding available through USDA. The added grant funding would help encourage more high-speed broadband deployment to high-need areas by enhancing the feasibility of these projects.
The Senate-passed Farm Bill also increases the annual funding level of the USDA broadband program to $350 million. Without access to high-quality, affordable broadband service, workers have fewer opportunities for good-paying jobs, farmers and business owners are isolated from new markets, children are limited in their educational opportunities, and health care providers do not have reliable access to the most advanced technology available to help patients. The Senate-passed final version of the Farm Bill will now head to the U.S. House of Representatives for a vote.