Senator John Hoeven, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations and Indian Affairs Committees, today held a roundtable with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai and North Dakota industry stakeholders to discuss efforts to develop the state’s broadband infrastructure. Hoeven has prioritized expanding access to broadband as an essential part of supporting the state’s growing technology sector. Accordingly, the senator stressed the following priorities, which he has worked to advance:
- Strong rural broadband funding.
- Improved broadband mapping.
- Broadband in tribal communities.
“High-quality broadband services are essential to pretty much every business and household,” said Hoeven. “That’s especially true for our tech sector, which is why we’re working to develop our rural and tribal broadband infrastructure. Doing so will ensure that local businesses can compete in the global economy, regardless of their zip code. Our investment in the ReConnect Program as well as our efforts to improve the FCC’s programs and mapping are all about ensuring our state’s residents and businesses can access this service reliably and affordably. We appreciate Chairman Pai’s work with us on these issues and for coming to North Dakota to hear from our broadband providers firsthand.”
Strong Rural Broadband Funding
- The senator secured $1.1 billion across 2018 and 2019 for the ReConnect Program, a rural broadband loan and grant pilot program.
- Hoeven’s Move America Act would provide an important supplement to federal funding in the form of tax credits and tax-exempt bonds to support infrastructure development, including broadband.
- Hoeven cosponsored the Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act, which passed as part of the 2018 Farm Bill. The legislation helps ensure adequate broadband connectivity in rural areas on farm and ranchland to support the adoption of precision agriculture to reduce costs and improve yields.
- The senator also supported efforts to improve the FCC’s High-Cost Program under the Universal Service Fund (USF) and has worked with Pai to ensure the program is fully funded.
- Last month, the senator announced that the FCC would provide nearly $600 million in USF funds to North Dakota over the next decade to expand broadband.
Improved Broadband Mapping
- Hoeven is cosponsoring the Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability (DATA) Act, legislation to improve the accuracy of broadband mapping by:
- Making the data more granular.
- Including more state, local and tribal government data.
- Establishing a challenge process to ensure data provided by ISPs are accurate.
- Allowing the public to provide information about the availability of broadband.
- Hoeven also led the state’s congressional delegation in urging Pai to advance similar reforms.
Broadband in Tribal Communities
- Hoeven held an Indian Affairs hearing last year to review internet access issues in tribal communities and will convene a follow-up hearing this week.
- His efforts follow three Government Accountability Office (GAO), which Hoeven requested, that outline the issues and suggest solutions, including:
- Improving FCC data collection methods.
- Addressing regulatory barriers that prevent tribes from accessing Rural Utilities Service funding.