Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., announced plans to introduce the Broadband Connections for Rural Opportunities Program (B-CROP) Act, which would provide funding for rural broadband projects in high-need areas.
“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 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.”
The legislation provides for grants of up to 50 percent of a broadband project’s cost, and up to 75 percent for projects in areas designated high-need, in combination with the loan funding currently available through USDA’s Rural Utilities Service.
“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,” 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.”
The proposed bill has received support from organizations in the private sector who have advocated for a focus on expanding broadband to rural parts of 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, CEO, NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association. “We believe the introduction of the 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.”
This legislation proposal coincides with a $2 billion, 10-year program announced by the Federal Communications Commission to expand rural broadband networks, the auction for which will begin in 2018.