Kind: More Aid Needed for Rural Broadband Infrastructure
Broadband access continues to be a major challenge in rural America. A 900-billion-dollar, year-ending aid package passed through Congress this week. While there is money available to spend on increasing broadband in rural areas, Wisconsin Democratic Representative Ron Kind says funding like this continues piecemeal efforts to solve a serious problem.
“There are a variety of grant programs that are already available and broadband programs that we’re trying to enhance right now, but I still think it falls short of what we need, and that’s a comprehensive, broad-based, broadband expansion program that leaves no one behind regardless of where they happen to be living. We had that in the Moving America Forward Act that passed in the House of Representatives this summer. It had about 80 billion dollars dedicated to close the last mile and to make sure that we had complete, 100 percent coverage to all America.”
Kind voted in support of the end of the year aid package. He’s optimistic that Congress may be able to make more progress on broadband access in the next session.
“I’m hopeful that with a new Congress and a new administration coming in that we put infrastructure investment as a high priority, and a part of that also entail broadband infrastructure deployment. That’s my goal, at least, and we need to do that or we’re going to be leaving more people behind, especially our rural communities that won’t be in a position to compete in the 21st century economy.”
He’s looking at how the money available in the current aid package will be beneficial to rural America.
“With the substantial money for broadband expansion, over seven billion dollars, including a large chunk of that for rural Wisconsin and rural America. The coronavirus has certainly highlighted the digital divide like never before, and the economic and education inequities that flow from it. And for us to make telehealth work well, we need broadband in rural areas too, so this I view as a down payment for broadband expansion, which is important for our country to maintain our competitiveness on a global scale.”