Working for you: What are they saying about my work on broadband?


As co-chair of the bipartisan House Rural Broadband Caucus, I am working tirelessly to close the digital divide for the people of our region, the Commonwealth, and the nation. In fact, this is an issue that I have been working on throughout my time in Congress, before it became a political buzzword, dating back to my time in local and state government. 

I want to share just a little of the work I am doing for you to close the digital divide and increase access to broadband services in our region. This has been a long-fought issue, one I have never ceased working on, and I firmly believe that thanks to my efforts and the efforts of countless individuals around our region, our state, and at the federal level, we will see more work done on this issue in the next two years in than in the previous ten combined. 

Broadband Telephone Town Hall

At the end of last month, I hosted a public Telephone Town Hall on Broadband with Governor Northam’s Chief Broadband Advisor Evan Feinman and constituents of the First District to answer questions related to broadband and connectivity, services, and programs to help close the digital divide for rural Americans. Click here to listen to the full audio of the town hall.

“Just as Governor Northam has made broadband a priority, getting over 108,000 Virginia homes and businesses connected, Congressman Wittman has been a champion for disconnected Virginians, leading effort after effort in the Congress to get more Virginians online,” said Advisor Feinman. “I was thrilled to join him for a town hall and help inform the citizens of the 1st district about the great work he's doing for them in DC.”

This broadband-specific call allowed me the opportunity to hear directly from individuals in our region on the issues they have faced during the pandemic and provide updates on my work to help bridge the divide and increase access to quality, reliable broadband services. The new normal has caused millions of rural Americans, who have inadequate or no connectivity to high-speed broadband, to feel abandoned as they are in desperate need of relief to compete in the digital economy. I want to again thank Advisor Feinman for joining me on this call and for his insights on how we can work together at the federal, state, and local level to address these challenges and achieve results for Virginians.

Supporting Localities as they Expand Broadband

In September, I announced that I authored five letters of support to the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development’s Office of Broadband advocating for ten VA-01 counties’ FY 2021 Virginia Telecommunication Initiative (VATI) grant applications to expand reliable high-speed broadband service to rural Virginia. The Virginia Telecommunication Initiative (VATI) extends broadband service to currently unserved areas. VATI prepares communities to build, utilize, and capitalize on telecommunications infrastructure with the goal of creating strong, competitive communities. 

Additionally, since June, I have visited the Caroline County Board of Supervisors, Fredericksburg City Council, James City County Board of Supervisors, Hanover County Board of Supervisors, and the Stafford County Board of Supervisors. These visits have allowed me the opportunity to provide vital updates from Washington on my work for our localities, especially as it relates to broadband expansion.

“From the very beginning [of my time on the Stafford County Board of Supervisors], I have worked with your staff [to address] all the challenges that we had to get broadband,” said Stafford County Board of Supervisors Member Cindy Shelton, Aquia District. “Your staff was instrumental in [Stafford County] getting the VATI grant. … All along in this entire process, going into your meetings that you’ve had, working with your staff on broadband, has just been really instrumental in helping us to find what are needs are going to be, and then taking that further down into addressing [those needs].”

Just last week, I had the great opportunity to participate as a panelist on Governor Northam’s Summit on Rural Prosperity to specifically talk about my work on broadband expansion in our rural areas. Watch the summit here (meeting starts around 16-minute mark).

Earlier this year, I received a letter from Dept. of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in response to my June letter to President Trump requesting the prioritization of direct funding support for rural broadband development in the President’s upcoming infrastructure proposal. In his letter, Secretary Ross detailed the Administration’s efforts to bring improved broadband services and access to more Americans. As part the Commerce Department’s shared leadership of the Administration’s American Broadband Initiative, the Department released a Progress Report on June 25 detailing steps that Federal agencies have taken to make funding available for broadband deployment across the country. The report also describes coordination activities related to Federal broadband programs with other Federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) also has been involved in discussions with state, regional, and local government officials and industry representatives who are keenly aware of the vital role that broadband plays in supporting American families, businesses, and overall health and public safety.

My Legislation and Work with the FCC

In March, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, I introduced the Serving Rural America Act (HR 6456), legislation to create a five-year pilot program at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), authorizing $100 million a year for a total of $500 million over five years to expand broadband service to unserved Americans. I also hosted two virtual Fireside Chats with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr alongside local government leaders, tribal leaders, and key Virginia broadband stakeholders to discuss the FCC’s work on rural broadband buildout, the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), telehealth, and what the FCC is doing to help communities during the Coronavirus pandemic.

In addition to the Serving Rural America ActI have helped draft the Broadband DATA Act, which requires providers report service availability based on more granular geolocation rather than traditional census blocks to improve the National Broadband Map, and Co-sponsored the MAPS Act, which makes it unlawful for internet service providers (ISPs) to willfully, knowingly, or recklessly submit inaccurate coverage information to the FCC.

I will continue working with the Administration, my colleagues in Congress, and state officials to achieve real results for our rural healthcare providers, schools, and the people of our region. 



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