WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) reintroduced bipartisan legislation to help states, cities, and towns spur investment in rural broadband projects. The bill complements ongoing efforts in New Hampshire by providing state and local governments with innovative financing options for broadband projects, giving states and localities access to additional tools to invest in rural broadband.
The bipartisan Rural Broadband Financing Flexibility Act would allow state and local governments to issue tax-exempt bonds to finance rural broadband projects, including public private partnerships like those in New Hampshire, as well as allow the federal government to assist state and local governments in bond payments. In addition, it would create a federal tax credit that states and localities could direct toward rural broadband projects.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has made even more clear that Granite State families and small businesses need fast and reliable internet access to succeed in today’s economy,” said Senator Hassan. “This bipartisan bill would provide rural communities in New Hampshire with new financing options to expand their broadband infrastructure so that every household can get connected.”
“Since launching Capito Connect in 2015, I’ve been pursuing every angle to ensure rural areas get reliable, affordable connectivity,” Senator Capito said. “This legislation will provide additional funding opportunities for communities looking to invest in rural broadband. I’m proud to team up with Senator Hassan again to reintroduce this legislation that will help close the digital divide in West Virginia and across rural America by incentivizing buildout and expanding financing options.”
As part of their efforts to close the rural-urban digital divide, Senators Hassan and Capito have partnered across the aisle on efforts to expand rural broadband access. They recently reintroduced the Rural Reasonable and Comparable Wireless Access Act to help ensure that there is equitable wireless and broadband service in rural and urban areas, which has long been undefined. The two Senators also cosponsored the bipartisan Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability (DATA) Act, which was signed into law last year. The bill pushes the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to improve its broadband coverage maps by directing the FCC to require more detailed coverage data from service providers, and develop a process for consumers and stakeholders to challenge the accuracy of those broadband maps.
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.