U.S. Senator Tom Udall joined a bipartisan coalition, led by Sens. Steve Daines (R-MT), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Angus King (I-ME), in an effort to ensure the federal government prioritizes high-speed broadband access for rural Americans. Broadband Internet is critical to expand economic development opportunities, distance learning and telehealth to rural communities in New Mexico and across the country.
In a bipartisan letter signed by more than a dozen senators, Udall and others pressed Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, co-chairs of the Broadband Opportunity Council, for a detailed analysis of the various federal broadband initiatives that can be coordinated across agencies to bridge the digital divide and bring rural America into the 21st century.
“In many places in America, the forces of the free market economy are driving investment in broadband infrastructure and delivering quality networks at competitive prices, but broadband deployment and adoption in rural communities continues to fall behind,” the senators wrote. “Whereas, fewer than one-in-ten citizens lack access to high speed broadband service in urban areas, it is the sad reality for a majority of rural Americans – 33 million people – whose innovative ideas cannot compete on a level playing field in a global economy.”
The senators continued, “We believe public-private partnerships can play an important role in solving the growing digital divide between urban centers and rural communities, which continues to stifle American ingenuity and sideline our entrepreneurs that cannot connect to high speed broadband services.”
In addition to Udall, the letter was signed by: Senator Steve Daines (R-MT), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Angus King (I-ME), Mark Warner (D-VA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Patty Murray (D-WA) and Jon Tester (D-MT).
America’s rural communities face a severe disparity with their urban counterparts for access to high-speed broadband. The lack of access is also clearly seen in tribal communities, where 85 percent of rural tribal lands lack access to broadband, compared to 53 percent of non-tribal rural areas.
The letter is online available HERE