Press Release

Gillibrand Calling For $350 Million In Federal Funding For Rural Broadband 

May 30, 2024

Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand led a bipartisan push calling for $350 million in federal funding for USDA’s Rural Broadband Access Grant, Loan and Loan Guarantee Program to be included in the Fiscal Year 2025 appropriations bill. The rural broadband access program helps rural communities across the country cover the cost of broadband infrastructure.

Limited access to reliable high-speed internet makes it harder for kids to do their homework, for seniors to access telehealth appointments, and for workers to take advantage of remote employment opportunities,” said Senator Gillibrand.High-quality internet is no longer a luxury – it is a necessity for everyday life. That’s why I lead this annual push to help bring broadband to every single community in our state, spur economic growth, and improve quality of life for New York families. I’m working with my colleagues across the aisle to get this critical program fully funded in the coming fiscal year.” 

Gillibrand has long fought to bring reliable internet access to every community in the state. She worked to pass the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the American Rescue Plan, which together with other Biden administration efforts have delivered $2.8 billion in federal funding for high-speed internet infrastructure in New York, including $100 million though the Capital Projects Fund, over $10 million for tribal communities through the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, over $31 million for rural communities through the ReConnect Loan and Grant Program, and over $14 million for unserved and underserved communities through the Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program.

The full text of Senator Gillibrand’s letter to Senate appropriators is available here or below: 

Dear Chair Heinrich and Ranking Member Hoeven,

We write to ask for your support of the rural broadband loan and grant program authorized by the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 as you develop the fiscal year (FY) 2025 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill. Specifically, we request that you include the fully authorized annual funding amount of $350 million to continue implementing this program.

Affordable, high-speed internet access is critical for the economic development and quality of life of the nation’s rural communities. Nationally, more than 17.3 percent of Americans in rural areas lack access to fixed terrestrial broadband at speeds of 25 Mbps/3 Mbps, compared to only 2 percent of Americans in urban areas. Without access to high-quality, affordable internet service, workers have fewer opportunities for good-paying jobs, farmers and business owners are isolated from new markets, children are limited in their education opportunities, and health care providers do not have reliable access to the most advanced technology to help patients.

With broad stakeholder support as well as bipartisan, bicameral agreement in Congress, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, better known as the 2018 Farm Bill, expanded the existing U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Utilities Service’s (RUS) Broadband Program to include a new grant component to be offered along with the already provided loan and loan guarantee financing. Too often, loan financing does not offer enough incentive or support for service providers to invest in rural communities that have the greatest need. In FY2022, FY2023, and FY2024, Congress appropriated $486.6 million, $363.5 million, and $100.4 million, respectively, for the USDA’s ReConnect Pilot Program, which also offered grant funding and loans for rural broadband projects. Additionally, through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Congress authorized an additional $1.9 billion over ten years for the ReConnect program, totaling to an additional $2 billion investment into USDA programs for expanding broadband in rural areas. By combining grants with loans, as well as making additional improvements to the USDA RUS Rural Broadband Program like raising speed standards, the 2018 Farm Bill builds on this pilot, enhancing the economic feasibility of projects that provide high-speed, high-quality internet to rural America.

Every American, regardless of where they live, work, or retire must have access to the technology necessary to succeed in the 21st century. To achieve this, we urge the committee to fully fund the annual authorized amount of $350 million for USDA’s Rural Broadband Access Grant, Loan and Loan Guarantee Program. After expeditious implementation of the Farm Bill Program, we would also request the transfer of any unused funding from the current ReConnect Pilot into this program.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.