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Bipartisan Hassan-Capito Bill to Help Close the Urban-Rural Digital Divide Passes Senate Commerce Committee

Rural Reasonable and Comparable Wireless Access Act of 2018 Will Help Ensure that Rural Areas Have Access to Reliable and Fast Broadband

WASHINGTON – The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee today approved the bipartisan Rural Reasonable and Comparable Wireless Act of 2018, which was introduced by Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) to help close the urban-rural digital divide and expand access to broadband in rural parts of New Hampshire and across the country.

The bipartisan Rural Reasonable and Comparable Wireless Access Act of 2018 directs 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. The bill will help ensure that there is equitable wireless and broadband service in rural and urban areas, which has long be undefined.

“Granite Staters in every corner of New Hampshire need access to reliable and fast mobile and broadband services in order compete in the 21st century innovation economy,” Senator Hassan said. “Closing the urban-rural digital divide is vital to those efforts, and by directing the FCC to establish a national standard to ensure that rural and urban areas have similar access to wireless and broadband services, the bipartisan Rural Reasonable and Comparable Wireless Act of 2018 will help bridge that divide. I commend the Commerce Committee for approving this important bill that will help ensure that all of our people in New Hampshire – regardless of their zip code – have access to the broadband service they need to help them thrive.”

“Broadband is a powerful tool that is essential to compete in a global digital economy,” Senator Capito said. “While we have made progress in bridging the digital divide, there are still many rural communities that do not have access to the internet. This lack of connectivity limits economic opportunity and growth and simply puts these communities at a disadvantage. The Rural Reasonable and Comparable Wireless Act helps address this problem by ensuring that rural areas—like those in West Virginia—have the access to high-speed internet that urban areas do. I am glad that my colleagues on the Commerce Committee joined me in approving this important bill so we can provide greater access to rural broadband, ultimately helping more communities and businesses compete, grow, and succeed.”

A companion bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressmen Peter Welch (D-VT) and David McKinley (R-WV).

As part of her efforts to close the urban-rural digital divide, Senator Hassan introduced the bipartisan AIRWAVES Act to create a spectrum pipeline to avoid “spectrum crunch”, as well as leverage the success of spectrum auctions to expand broadband technologies in rural areas. Senator Hassan also voted to approve the bipartisan Improving Rural Call Quality and Reliability Act to improve the quality of communication in rural areas and helped introduce the Connected Government Act, which has been signed into law and requires all new federal websites to be mobile-friendly.