Reliable Internet connectivity seems as though it should be standard for all Americans, but for those who live in rural areas this is not the case. This digital divide has left many unable to access reliable, high-speed Internet service, which results in lost opportunities to expand businesses, learn new skills, or even participate in daily activities. Throughout the largely rural areas that I represent in Congress, it is truly a checkerboard of connectivity.
The digital divide affecting rural communities became most apparent at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. As more of everyday life requires access to the Internet, many households and communities are missing these experiences and the opportunities connectivity presents.
As the lead Republican member of the House Agriculture Committee, a robust rural economy is one of my top priorities. Agriculture remains PA’s number one industry and the demands of a 21st century farm economy depend upon having access to reliable Internet service. Earlier this month, at my annual Agriculture Summit during Penn State’s Ag Progress Days, I had the opportunity to speak with stakeholders who directly impact the rural economy. One issue remains constant: reliable connectivity is necessary.
I am very proud of the bipartisan work the House Agriculture Committee has done to address the digital divide. This is reflected through the Broadband Internet Connections for Rural America Act. Every member of the House Ag Committee supported this bill and I’m proud we were able to deliver, out of committee, the first truly bipartisan infrastructure bill.
The Broadband Internet Connections for Rural America Act authorizes more than $43 billion in broadband infrastructure spending, improves technical assistance to service providers and rural communities, and provides grants for broadband availability mapping.
As the debate over our infrastructure continues, I look forward to working with my colleagues from both parties to ensure that we make much needed improvements to how rural America accesses the Internet
This article was published in the Venango Chamber’s September 2021 VenangoWorks! Newsletter.