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Grassley: Broadband Expansion Projects Must Prioritize Unserved Areas

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) joined Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and several of his colleagues in urging the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to prioritize funding for broadband projects in unserved rural areas. Instead of overbuilding existing broadband infrastructure in areas with reliable broadband service, the lawmakers push the NTIA to put the needs of unserved areas – largely rural areas – first.

“NTIA has an opportunity to make a substantial impact on connecting rural America. However, doing so will require that your agency outline rules that specifically prohibit overbuilding and that set clear criteria to ensure projects targeted at unserved areas are actually prioritized. The regulations and methodology for the distribution of these funds must prioritize projects that are connecting customers and communities to broadband for the first time and avoid projects in areas where reliable broadband is already being provided or where there is an enforceable commitment to build high-speed broadband using federal or state funds,” the senators wrote.

“Further, you must work in concert with other broadband programs to avoid duplication of state or federal government efforts and your department should ensure that all technological options are on the table to bring broadband service to unserved areas. This will ensure that all customers, regardless of location have the opportunity to benefit from this program,” the senators continue.

Grassley has been a strong advocate for expanding broadband access to include unserved Iowans. Last fall, Grassley supported the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) which contains $65 billion for broadband deployment. And in December, he called on U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack to close the digital divide in rural areas by removing unnecessary red tape.

The letter was also signed by Thom Tillis (N.C.), John Barrasso (Wyo.), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Mike Braun (Ind.), James Lankford (Okla.), Cynthia Lummis (Wyo.), Jim Risch (Idaho), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Tommy Tuberville (Ala.), John Kennedy (La.), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Ted Cruz (Texas), John Boozman (Ark.), Richard Burr (N.C.), John Cornyn (Texas), Roger Marshall (Kan.) and Jim Inhofe (Okla.).

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