Latta, O’Halleran introduce bipartisan legislation advancing broadband in rural areas


Congressman Bob Latta, R-Bowling Green, Republican leader of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, and Congressman Tom O’Halleran, D-Arizona, introduced bipartisan legislation, the Rural Connectivity Advancement Program Act of 2020.

The act would facilitate broadband buildout in rural communities by capturing a portion of the proceeds from spectrum auctions conducted by the Federal Communications Commission through Sept. 30, 2022.

“Our country’s technological capabilities are revolutionizing the way Americans communicate and work with each other, but many Americans who live in rural communities are being left behind,” Latta said. “The Internet is a critical driver of economic growth; it has become a lifeline to access health care, receive an education, earn a living, and more, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. It has become increasingly clear that access to broadband is a must-have to meet those goals, which is why it is critical to support efforts to close the digital divide. This bill will increase funding to further the buildout of broadband in rural communities so that Americans, including those who live in rural America, will be able to participate in our 21st century economy.”

“An astounding 36% of tribal households lack access to wired broadband,” O’Halleran said. “Since coming to Congress in 2017, I’ve fought to expand reliable, high-speed internet to families across rural and tribal Arizona. Now more than ever, this essential service connects us to work, school, and health care. I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan bill that will help address existing gaps in broadband infrastructure in rural and tribal areas and provide transparency and accountability in the distribution of funding for these important programs.”

Latta and O’Halleran’s legislation is the U.S. House of Representatives companion of the RCAP Act of 2020 introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senator John Thune, R-South DakotaR.

Specifically, RCAP would:

• Set aside 10% of the net proceeds from spectrum auctions for the buildout of broadband networks.

• Require the FCC to utilize the funds provided by RCAP to address gaps that remain in broadband internet access service coverage in high-cost rural areas.

• Allow the FCC to use the funds provided by RCAP in a technology-neutral manner to address shortfalls in sufficient funding of existing USF High-Cost Programs for the buildout of broadband services.

• Require the FCC to consider the broadband internet access service needs of residents of tribal lands.

• Require the FCC to produce an annual report on the distribution of funds established under this act.