August 17, 2017

Senators Gillibrand and Capito Announce Bipartisan Legislation To Make Funding Available For Rural Broadband Projects

Legislation Would Help Bring More Access to High-Speed Broadband Internet to Rural and Tribal Areas

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) announced the Broadband Connections for Rural Opportunities Program Act, also known as the B-CROP Act. This bipartisan bill would make grant funding available for rural broadband projects in high-need areas to be awarded in combination with the current loan funding available through USDA’s Rural Utilities Service.

“There is no doubt anymore that students and businesses in today’s world must have access to high-speed internet in order to get ahead, but too many of our rural communities still lack access to this essential technology,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This bill would bring much-needed federal funding to our rural communities that want to install broadband internet but don’t have the resources to do it on their own. I am proud to lead this bipartisan legislation with Senator Capito, and I urge all New Yorkers in rural communities to join me in raising their voices about our urgent need for broadband internet.”

“In a world that is becoming more and more connected, access to high-speed internet is essential for economic growth, job creation, and an improved quality of life. Unfortunately, in states like West Virginia, many of our rural communities are being left behind as the digital divide grows,” Senator Capito said. “Through my Capito Connect plan, I have worked hard to deliver all of the opportunities broadband provides to West Virginia families, communities and small businesses. The B-CROP Act will help expand access to high-speed internet in the areas that need it most, improving the lives of and futures of individuals throughout West Virginia and in states across the country.”

“NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association greatly appreciates the leadership of Sens. Gillibrand and Capito in continuing to recognize that more must be done to address and overcome the challenges of deploying and sustaining broadband in rural America,” said Shirley Bloomfield, chief executive officer, NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association. “We believe the introduction of the Broadband Connection for Rural Opportunities Program (B-CROP) legislation can help encourage the deployment of robust and affordable broadband in rural areas that are the most challenging to serve. NTCA looks forward to working with these Senators and other policymakers to tackle the important issues addressed by this legislation.”

The B-CROP Act proposes policies to target federal funds to rural and tribal areas in the highest of need to connect all Americans, regardless of where they live, work, or retire, to the technology necessary to succeed in the 21st century. 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.

A copy of the legislation can be found here.

Specifically, the B-CROP Act does the following:

• Allows 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’s Rural Utilities Service.
• Helps enhance the economic feasibility of projects serving rural and tribal areas.
• Gives highest priority to projects in areas that are currently unserved by high-speed broadband.
• Coordinates with the FCC’s Universal Service High-Cost Support programs to complement those federal investments, responsibly spending taxpayer money.
• Increases the authorized funding for RUS’s Broadband programs to $50 million per fiscal year.
• Provides adequate resources to private sector providers, including corporations, LLCs, cooperatives or mutual organizations, state or local governments, and Indian tribes or tribal organizations, to expand broadband access to unserved rural areas.
• Gives partnership projects special attention, including initiatives that leverage matching funds and that work with anchor institutions like health centers, libraries, colleges, universities, and other educational entities.