Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) introduced the Advancing Critical Connectivity Expands Service, Small Businesses Resources, Opportunities, Access, and Data Based on Assessed Need and Demand (ACCESS BROADBAND) Act, bipartisan legislation to establish a single point of contact office to streamline management and oversight of federal broadband resources across multiple agencies. The bill will create a simpler process for small businesses and local economic developers to access federal broadband resources, including informational workshops for local businesses and economic developers.
“Nevadans rely on Internet access to enhance their education, acquire skills through training resources available online, and expand their business opportunities,” said Cortez Masto. “Better coordination between federal agencies and local governments to streamline broadband access will help ensure that every Nevadan will have the information and resources they need to gain the important benefits of Internet access while improving the transparency and oversight of federal dollars spent.”
“This legislation will improve oversight of federal broadband programs and ensure that we’re spending money effectively to narrow the urban-rural digital divide,” said Gardner. “Avoiding overbuilding and streamlining grant application processes will help expand rural broadband and keep communities in rural Colorado and beyond connected to the world.”
The ACCESS BROADBAND Act requires the Department of Commerce to establish the Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
The office shall:
- Connect with communities that need access to high-speed internet and improved digital inclusion efforts,
- Hold regional workshops to share best practices and effective strategies for promoting broadband access and adoption,
- Develop targeted broadband training and presentations for various demographic communities through media,
- Develop and distribute publications providing guidance to communities for expanding broadband access and adoption, and
- Track construction and use of broadband infrastructure built using federal support.
The office must report annually: (1) a description of the office’s work, (2) the number of U.S. residents who received broadband as result of federal broadband programs, and (3) an estimate of the economic impact of such broadband deployment efforts on the local economy.
The office shall consult with any agency offering a federal broadband support program in order to streamline the application process and create one application that may be submitted to apply for all federal broadband support programs.
Senator Cortez Masto has worked hard to close the digital divide in Nevada, especially for rural communities. Since joining the Senate, she has successfully advocated for $600 million more in federal funding through the FY18 Omnibus Appropriations law and a new program included in the Senate Farm Bill reauthorization; authored an amendment that was included in the Senate Farm Bill to create a centralized federal agency working group to coordinate specific rural broadband solutions; introduced legislation to create more high-speed broadband enabled ‘smart communities,’ in both urban and rural areas, through the Department of Transportation; and helped secure a Department of Commerce National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) rural broadband workshop in Nevada in the coming months.
Text of the legislation can be found HERE.