House Members Reintroduce Bipartisan Legislation to Make Funding Available for Rural Broadband Projects
Nov 02 2017
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Rep. Harold "Hal" Rogers (KY-05) joined several of his colleagues to reintroduce the Broadband Connections for Rural Opportunities Program (B-CROP) Act. The bipartisan bill would award grant funding to vital rural broadband projects in combination with the current loan funding available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Rural Utilities Service.
U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. Senate earlier this year.
“Broadband is America’s modern day interstate highway for business, communications and emergency response. Without it, rural parts of the country are missing out on economic diversity, educational advancements, telemedicine and much more,” said Congressman Hal Rogers. “B-CROP will complement the KentuckyWired project, by making grant funding available to local governments and other eligible entities to extend the 'last mile' of fiber optic cable into each community."
KentuckyWired is a statewide, open-access fiber optic network which will deliver robust, reliable and affordable broadband to every county in the Commonwealth upon completion.
“We believe the B-CROP Act can help promote the deployment of robust broadband networks in rural areas that are the most challenging to serve," said Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association. "NTCA looks forward to working with members of Congress to tackle the important issues addressed by this legislation.”
The B-CROP Act proposes policies to target federal funds for rural and tribal areas with the least connectivity. All Americans, regardless of where they live, work or retire, need access to broadband 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. 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.