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Senators Hassan and Capito Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Help Close the Rural-Urban Digital Divide

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) reintroduced the bipartisan Rural Reasonable and Comparable Wireless Access Act to help close the rural-urban digital divide and expand access to broadband in rural parts of New Hampshire, West Virginia, and across the country.


The bipartisan Rural Reasonable and Comparable Wireless Access Act will help ensure that there is equitable wireless service in rural and urban areas. It would direct the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to establish a national standard for determining whether mobile and broadband services in rural areas are ‘reasonably comparable’ to service provided in urban areas. Carriers would have to meet this new national standard in order to receive federal funding.


“Regardless of where you live, access to high-speed internet is essential to participating in our 21st century economy, particularly amid a pandemic that has moved more of our lives online,” Senator Hassan said. “This bipartisan legislation would help close the urban-rural digital divide and take steps to connect more Granite Staters and Americans to broadband services. I am glad to partner with Senator Capito to introduce this commonsense legislation, and I will continue working across the aisle to expand broadband services to more communities in New Hampshire and across the country.”


“Bringing reliable, affordable connectivity to every community is as important now as it ever has been,” Senator Capito said. “I’m proud to work with Senator Hassan on this bill because a national standard from the FCC will help us better identify how we can build out broadband in a more efficient and effective way in rural states like West Virginia.”


As part of their efforts to close the rural-urban digital divide, Senators Hassan and Capito first introduced the Rural Reasonable and Comparable Wireless Access Act in 2018. Additionally, Senators Hassan and Capito serve together as Honorary Co-chairs for the Global Women’s Innovation Network (WIN), an organization that provides a dynamic forum for women who are passionate about innovation.


Senator Hassan also successfully worked to include $7 billion in funding for the E-Rate program in the American Rescue Plan, which will direct funds to help schools provide Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and internet-enabled devices, including internet service through such equipment, to students. Last month, the Senator and her colleagues also urged the FCC to administer the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBBP) in a way that helps address the longstanding digital divides that block too many Americans from securing a reliable, affordable broadband connection.