Rep. Katko, Ranking Member Graves Introduce Bill to Spur High-Speed Broadband Projects in Rural & Economically Distressed Communities

April 14, 2020
Press Release

SYRACUSE, NY— Today, U.S. Rep. John Katko (NY-24), Ranking Member on the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management introduced a bill to ensure rural and distressed communities can more readily use Economic Development Administration (EDA) grants to develop high-speed broadband access. Rep. Katko joined U.S. Rep. Sam Graves (MO-06), Ranking Member of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure in introducing this measure.

The Eliminating Barriers to Rural Internet Development Grant Eligibility (E-BRIDGE) Act (H.R. 6491) removes hurdles for broadband projects under EDA grants, ensures that local communities can partner with the private sector in carrying out broadband projects, and gives communities more flexibility in complying with their funding match requirements.  Click here to read the bill.

“As Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management, I am proud to work alongside Ranking Member Graves in introducing legislation that aims to increase internet access in  rural communities by allowing them to more readily use EDA grants to develop high-speed broadband,” said Rep. Katko.  “The Coronavirus  pandemic has demonstrated how important broadband access is for emergency preparedness and response, delivery of medical care to vulnerable populations, and access to employment and education.  Now, more than ever, it is critical that our rural communities are equipped with the tools and resources to flourish.”

“Most Americans are currently under stay-at-home restrictions due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, making it clearer than ever how vital – but limited – access to broadband service is in many of our communities.  Completing the ‘last mile,’ in particular, is critical to ensuring that rural Americans are able to access high-speed internet.  This bill will help spur projects under EDA programs to give rural and poor communities more online access to medical care, schools, the workplace, food, and other essential services,” said Rep. Graves.  “Looking beyond the Nation’s current health emergency and towards our economic recovery, providing more avenues to develop broadband will also help these communities attract more jobs and business.”

Communities that are already economically distressed, possibly due in part to the lack of broadband, can be impacted even worse than most communities during disasters and other crises.  By helping to increase the reach of broadband to these communities, this legislation will help:

  • Attract new businesses and support current businesses in distressed regions of the country,
  • Provide critical infrastructure for more effective emergency preparedness and response,
  • Strengthen healthcare systems and delivery of medical care to vulnerable populations,
  • Lay the groundwork for economic recovery in these areas, and
  • Better prepare these communities for future disasters or epidemics.

The Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management have jurisdiction over the programs of the EDA and its economic development programs.