Washington, D.C. – A bill to ensure rural and distressed communities can more readily use Economic Development Administration (EDA) grants to develop high-speed broadband access has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO) and Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management Ranking Member John Katko (R-NY).
The Eliminating Barriers to Rural Internet Development Grant Eligibility (E-BRIDGE) Act (H.R. 6491) removes hurdles for broadband projects under EDA grants (including difficult last-mile efforts that often delay rural broadband deployment), ensures that local communities can partner with the private sector in carrying out broadband projects, and gives communities more flexibility in complying with their funding match requirements. Click here to read the bill.
“With North Missourians currently being asked to stay home due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the necessity of access to broadband service is more clear than ever. Completing the ‘last mile,’ in particular, is critical to ensuring that rural Americans are able to access high-speed internet. This bill will help spur projects under EDA programs to give rural and poor communities more online access to medical care, schools, the workplace, food, and other essential services,” Graves said. “Looking beyond the Nation’s current health emergency and towards our economic recovery, providing more avenues to develop broadband will also help these communities attract more jobs and business.”
Communities that are already economically distressed, possibly due in part to the lack of broadband, can be impacted even worse than most communities during disasters and other crises. By helping to increase the reach of broadband to these communities, this legislation will help:
- Attract new businesses and support current businesses in distressed regions of the country,
- Provide critical infrastructure for more effective emergency preparedness and response,
- Strengthen healthcare systems and delivery of medical care to vulnerable populations,
- Lay the groundwork for economic recovery in these areas, and
- Better prepare these communities for future disasters or epidemics.
The Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management have jurisdiction over the programs of the EDA and its economic development programs.