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Senator Hassan Addresses Rural Broadband, Ransomware Attacks on State & Local Governments at Committee Hearing

To watch the Senator’s questioning, click here.

WASHINGTON – At a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing yesterday, Senator Maggie Hassan discussed how to increase broadband access in New Hampshire’s rural communities, as well as what more must be done to protect state and local governments from ransomware and other cyber threats.

Addressing Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, Senator Hassan stated, “We need to continue to turn to the needs of our rural communities when it comes to connectivity. As Governor and now as Senator I drive all around my state—I can tell you where we don’t have access to broadband.” She continued, “We’re all aware of the benefits that 5G can bring. We’ve got to get 5G right for Americans who live in rural communities, not just in our largest cities.”

Senator Hassan discussed her bipartisan bill to close the urban-rural broadband divide and asked the Commissioner what needs to be done to support rural broadband access. The Commissioner discussed the funding challenges that rural communities face and the agency’s efforts to reprioritize and auction off mid-band spectrum in order to build 5G that will get to everyone – a key element of Senator Hassan’s bipartisan bill.

In a question to Chris Krebs, the top cybersecurity official at the Department of Homeland Security, Senator Hassan discussed the recent cyberattack on Strafford County, NH,  saying, “Obviously ransomware has been impacting government entities across the country at all levels of government including in my state of New Hampshire, where recently a county government was hit. Luckily they had a backup plan: They recognized the threat, they shut down their systems— but they had to run a jail, a nursing home, and dispatch with pen and paper.”

Senator Hassan continued, “I understand that [your agency] has briefed state and local entities and has tried to share information with them about the nature of these threats and that’s certainly moving in the right direction. But I think we have to do more. So beyond briefings and advisories, what is your agency doing right now to get resources and expertise to those entities that have either suffered these attacks or are at risk of being targeted by ransomware attacks.”

Krebs agreed to Senator Hassan’s request to visit New Hampshire to discuss this issue, and highlighted the need for more field professionals who can analyze threats across the country, review cyberattack response plans, and further support state and local entities. He also discussed the need for federal agencies to do more to “stop these attacks before they actually happen and put the bad guys on the run.”

Senator Hassan has led efforts to strengthen cybersecurity and prioritize the needs of state and local governments. She recently joined in introducing the bipartisan Advancing Cybersecurity Continuing Diagnostics and Mitigation Act, which would update and improve federal agencies’ cybersecurity, and make additional cyber defense resources available to Strafford County and other state and local governments. Last year, the President signed two bipartisan bills from Senator Hassan and Rob Portman (R-OH) to help strengthen cyber defenses at the Department of Homeland Security.