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Wittman to Pelosi: Broadband Investment is Imperative

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Washington, February 7, 2019 | comments

Wittman to Pelosi: Broadband Investment is Imperative

WASHINGTON – Congressman Rob Wittman (VA-01), Co-Chair of the Congressional Rural Broadband Caucus, sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi urging her to include broadband investments in a potential infrastructure package. Expanding access to broadband in unserved areas of the First District is one of Congressman Wittman’s highest priorities.

“Recently, in his State of the Union address, President Trump emphasized the need for legislation to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure, which would include expanding broadband access to unserved populations of the country. I could not agree more with the president’s comments. With that in mind, I am urging you to prioritize policies in the 116th Congress that will help promote broadband investments and bridge the digital divide between urban and rural America,” Wittman wrote in the letter.

Currently almost 50% of rural Virginians lack access to high speed internet and 29% don’t have any internet service at all. Red tape and regulations, cost of service, and varying geographic obstacles continue to be major hinderances to expanding broadband access in rural areas. Congressman Wittman believes that by addressing these issues and engaging federal agencies and other private stakeholders with localities, we can help bridge the digital divide.

“With the coordination of Congress and the president, there is no greater time than now to help bring millions of Americans off the sidelines. As you move forward with addressing the needs of our nation’s infrastructure, I believe it is paramount that broadband investments and policies that encourage them be included,” he wrote.

Congressman Wittman continues to be a leader on promoting access to broadband in rural areas. Last year, he held two meetings of his Broadband Taskforce, where he brought together national, state, and local stakeholders to discuss ways of expanding broadband to unserved areas. Last March, Congressman Wittman fought to secure more than $685 million in the government funding bill to expand federal support in leveraging private investment for the expansion of rural broadband deployment. This legislation created a new $600 million broadband grant and loan program known as the Re-Connect Program. On January 17, 2018 Congressman Wittman sent a letter to the Trump Administration advocating for increasing access to broadband in rural areas and he urged the administration to include policies promoting broadband investments in any upcoming infrastructure package.

The full text of the letter can be found here and below.

Dear Speaker Pelosi,

Recently, in his State of the Union address, President Trump emphasized the need for legislation to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure, which would include expanding broadband access to unserved populations of the country. I could not agree more with the president’s comments. With that in mind, I am urging you to prioritize policies in the 116th Congress that will help promote broadband investments and bridge the digital divide between urban and rural America.

As you know, the internet has forever altered how we live our lives and how businesses operate. Today, Americans rely upon the internet to carry out everyday tasks; whether balancing our checkbooks through online banking platforms or sending emails, access to broadband services has become essential.

Unfortunately, more than 23 million Americans still lack access to quality high speed internet services and therefore cannot experience the services that broadband provides, such as telemedicine, online education, and technology that is required of businesses to compete in a 21st Century economy. These services are uniquely critical to rural populations, where a smaller tax base and aging populations are putting a strain on education and healthcare services. The ability to provide distance learning technologies and telehealth services would not only help serve as innovative solutions to the challenge rural communities face, but also help level the playing field to retain and attract new businesses and talent.

With the coordination of Congress and the president, there is no greater time than now to help bring millions of Americans off the sidelines. As you move forward with addressing the needs of our nation’s infrastructure, I believe it is paramount that broadband investments and policies that encourage them be included.

I look forward to working with you to expand broadband access to the unserved regions of America and help spur immense economic growth and bring greater prosperity to rural areas.

Sincerely,
Robert J. Wittman
Member of Congress

Congressman Rob Wittman represents the 1st District of Virginia. He serves on the House Natural Resources Committee and the House Armed Services Committee, where he serves as the ranking member of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee.

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