Congress making bipartisan effort to expand rural broadband

WASHINGTON -- Tucked into last years’ spending bill and overshadowed by the impeachment debate was a piece of legislation impacting rural communities across the country.

“The rural act being signed into law before Christmas was a big deal,” Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL) said.

The Democratic Alabama Congresswoman introduced the “RURAL Act” ensuring small power companies like Power South, Alabama Rural Electric Association and Central Alabama Co-Op have access to grants funding the growth of rural broadband. Without Sewell’s bill, the companies wouldn’t have qualified for the grants because of an unintended consequence of the last GOP tax law.

“The ‘RURAL Act’ was a bill that I sponsored with lots of great support both from Republicans and Democrats,” she said. “We were able to get it across the finish line.”

Sewell’s bill had the support of over 300 members of Congress, all of whom are impacted by rural broadband access.

“It doesn’t matter where you are. If you don’t have access to broadband, that means you’re in a community that’s really struggling,” Rep. Drew Ferguson (R-GA) said.

The Republican Georgia Congressman said the digital divide is visible in our school system with rural students not having the same tools as kids in urban and suburban areas. He said he hopes this bill could make up the difference.

“So what we’re hoping to do is change the timeline of money that’s available to these rural communities because we think that’s the key to making this happen,” he said.

President Trump signed the “RURAL Act” into law last month.