House Passes ACCESS BROADBAND Act

Would try to spur rural, small business, broadband access
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U.S. Capitol, Capitol Dome

The House Wednesday (May 8) passed a mouthful of a bipartisan broadband bill.

That was the Advancing Critical Connectivity Expands Service, Small Businesses Resources, Opportunities, Access, and Data Based on Assessed Need and Demand (ACCESS BROADBAND) Act (HR 1328).

The legislation, which was only introduced a month ago, must still pass the Senate if it is to make it into law.

The bill is meant to spur the Trump Administration to boost broadband access in underserved areas, which means the mostly rural areas where there is less of a business case for it.

The bill:

1. "Establishes an Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)."

2. "Directs this office to simplify access for small businesses and local communities, possibly including small business workshops and other support resources.

3. "Streamlines process for small businesses & local governments to apply for federal broadband assistance; improves coordination across government and the private sector."

A similar bill passed the House last session, but not the Senate.

“Lack of broadband access, particularly in rural areas, is an issue which affects far too many communities across the country," said House Energy & Commerce Committee ranking member Greg Walden. "The ACCESS BROADBAND Act is an important piece of the puzzle to help close the digital divide by coordinating federal broadband programs to ensure federal investments are targeted at unserved areas. Simplifying this process for small businesses and local communities will help bring broadband connectivity to underserved and rural areas across the country and I hope we can soon consider an NTIA reauthorization, which is sorely needed to effectuate the goals of this bill."

"The Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth achieves two important deployment goals: streamlining provider access to essential government funds and avoiding network overbuilding," said USTelecom. "We hope the Senate follows the lead of the House and takes up Senator Catherine Cortez Masto’s (D-Nev.) companion bill to promote accountability, bridge the digital divide, and bring connectivity to the consumers who need broadband the most.”

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