Thune leads bipartisan legislation aimed at expanding rural broadband

WASHINGTON — South Dakota Senator John Thune led bipartisan colleagues on Thursday to introduce the Rural Connectivity Advancement Program Act of 2021, which would dedicate a portion of the proceeds from congressionally-mandated spectrum auctions to expand broadband networks and strengthen rural connectivity.

Spectrum auctions are government auctions that sell the right to transmit signals over a certain network. For example, devices such as cell phones require a signal to connect one end to another and must be sent on designated airwaves to avoid interference.

If passed, the legislation would earmark 10% of the net proceeds from spectrum auctions mandated by Congress to build-out broadband networks. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would also be required to utilize the funds to address gaps in broadband internet access in high-cost rural areas, including consideration of service needs on tribal lands. The FCC would also produce an annual report on how the funds were used.

“Access to high-speed broadband services is critical, now more than ever before,”said Thune. “This bipartisan legislation would provide the Federal Communications Commission with the necessary resources to continue bridging the digital divide in rural America. I strongly support finding common-sense ways to effectively and efficiently deliver reliable broadband services to Americans who need it, and our bill is a step in the right direction.”

Both the Rural Broadband Association (NTCA) and the Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association (NATE) expressed their support for the legislation.

Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) joined Thune in introducting the legislation.

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