Senators Introduce Rural Broadband Bill

Talk of price and service competition

Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) have introduced a bill to boost rural broadband in rural and tribal areas.

The Broadband Connections for Rural Opportunities Program Act is meant to close the rural digital divide by providing new federal grants for high-speed broadband buildouts to supplement the money already available through the USDA's Rural Utilities Service.

It would also double the RUS broadband program funding to $50 million.

Capito and Gillibrand cited FCC stats saying that 40% of rural and tribal areas do not have access to broadband, but also suggested their bill was about competition, not just providing access where none existed.

"When high-speed broadband is available, consumers often have only one choice for service and pay more for high-speed plans than consumers in some other advanced countries," they said in a joint release announcing the bill.

ISPs have long argued that government funds should be targeted to areas without service first, not where government money underwrites competition to existing privacy investment and service.