Senator Smith Reintroduces Bill to Deploy Broadband to Underserved Rural and Tribal Communities

WASHINGTON [5.16.23] – Today, U.S. Senator Tina Smith reintroduced legislation—the Community Connect Grant Program Act—to reauthorize a key U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) program. The bill would make improvements to the grant program, making investments available for broadband projects in tribal, low-income, and remote rural areas.

“Broadband is the infrastructure of the 21st Century—it isn’t just nice, it’s essential if we’re going to build an economy that works for everyone,” said Sen. Smith. “It is absolutely necessary whether you’re a student working on homework, a business owner selling products, a farmer using modern equipment, or a person who is trying to access health care. This bill is a step forward and will help connect more Minnesotans and people across the nation with affordable, reliable internet service.”

“We appreciate Senator Tina Smith’s (D-MN) efforts to update the United States Department of Agriculture’s Community Connect Grant program,” said Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of the Rural Broadband Association. “We are proud to support the Community Grant Program Act of 2023, which would update the program’s requirements and standards to better meet the modern needs of consumers and improve coordination to ensure resources are going to areas most in need.  The bill will strengthen a valuable program for rural areas and further the shared goal of getting every American connected.”

The USDA Community Connect program through the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) helps fund broadband deployment into rural communities. In addition to authorizing the program and targeting areas that lack access across the nation, Sen. Smith’s bill would increase internet speed service under the program.

The Community Connect Grant Program is designed to be used by states, local governments, tribal governments, non-profits, cooperatives, and small and independent broadband providers.