Senator Steve Daines today pressed U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development and Rural Utilities Service officials on the need for swift action to provide broadband for thousands of rural Montanans who currently are without service.
During an Agriculture Appropriations hearing earlier this morning on “A review of Rural Development in 21st Century America,” Daines reaffirmed his commitment to the deployment of broadband to Montana’s rural and tribal communities and called on USDA leaders to take steps to ensure investments are actually being made in rural communities still lacking broadband service.
“Not only does access to broadband connect rural Americans and tribal communities to the rest of the world, but there are many broadband dependent farming applications that will enable Montana farmers to continue to feed our growing population and the world,” Daines stated. “Many communities in Montana don’t even have one broadband provider, we should be focusing dollars on unserved communities.”
Daines also pressed Brian McBride, Administrator for the Rural Utilities Service to ensure that Montana’s reservations and tribal communities have access to quality broadband.
“Broadband access on tribal lands continues to be an issue. In fact, high speed broadband on most tribal lands in Montana is almost non-existent,” Daines noted.
America’s rural communities face a severe disparity with their urban counterparts for access to high-speed broadband. The lack of access is also clearly seen in tribal communities, where 85 percent of rural tribal lands lack access to broadband, compared to 53 percent of non-tribal rural areas.
Earlier this summer, Daines led a bipartisan effort to ensure the federal government prioritizes high-speed broadband access for rural Americans.
In a letter signed by more than a dozen Senators, Daines pressed Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Co-Chairs of the Broadband Opportunity Council, for a detailed analysis of the various federal broadband initiatives that can be coordinated across agencies to bridge the digital divide and bring rural America into the 21st century. This report was released on August 20.
Daines is an original cosponsor of the Streamlining and Investing in Broadband Infrastructure Act that would ensure states simultaneously install broadband conduits as part of certain federal transportation projects that involve constructing a new highway or adding an additional lane or shoulder — known as “dig once.”
Daines also successfully worked to include provisions in the FY2016 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act that addresses the lack of broadband deployment in rural areas and in tribal communities, as well as call completion issues that continues to affect rural communities.