U.S. Senators Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack sharing concerns with new scoring criteria for Rural Connectivity Pilot Program’s (ReConnect) Round 3 that will adversely affect many of Iowa’s broadband providers.
“It is vital for Iowans to have access to quality and reliable broadband services. The pandemic has highlighted the many gaps that still exist in serving all of Iowa, especially in the rural areas of the state. Investment in broadband infrastructure by both small and large providers remains at an all-time high and this must continue for Iowa to close the broadband gap,” the senators wrote.
Ernst and Grassley have long fought for enhanced rural broadband. At the beginning of the year, they joined a bipartisan, bicameral effort to bring more oversight of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF). After hearing from Iowans about inaccurate broadband mapping in the state, Ernst worked on a bipartisan effort, the Broadband DATA Act, which was signed into law in March 2020. This law improves the accuracy of broadband maps so resources are targeted to areas where they are needed most. Last Congress, she introduced her ACCESS Act, which would cut regulatory red tape for telecom providers.