SHAHEEN URGES RECOVERY FUNDING FOR RURAL BROADBAND INITIATIVES
Shaheen, Senate colleagues call on administration officials to fund broadband service for currently unserved rural communities
U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen today led a bipartisan effort to urge Obama administration officials to make broadband access a priority for currently unserved rural communities as they allocate funding included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. Shaheen, along with nine Senate colleagues, sent letters to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Acting Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Copps, and Acting Secretary of Commerce Otto Wolf.
"It is widely understood that high-speed broadband is a crucial driver of economic recovery, creating jobs and enhancing our global competitiveness," said the Senators in the letters. "Without access to broadband, many rural communities will be unable to realize the benefits of economic recovery as intended in the ARRA. We urge you to make deploying broadband to unserved areas your first priority in dispensing the considerable resources accorded to broadband by Congress in the ARRA."
"There are few services as basic to the life of a business as a fast internet connection," said Mary Ann Kristiansen, Executive Director of the Hannah Grimes Center in Keene. "Competitive small business is the economic engine of this country, even more so, of our rural economy. The U.S. cannot afford to let this important economic engine idle. Senator Shaheen understands this fully and we are thankful that she has so quickly made bringing basic broadband to unserved rural areas a priority."
"For too long, rural communities without broadband access have been left to their own devices, and as a result some New Hampshire businesses, schools and families can't reach the Internet at the speeds they need to be competitive," said Martha McLeod, Executive Director of the North Country Health Consortium in New Hampshire. "Further, broadband access is necessary to provide higher quality and more cost-effective health care services, which leads to healthier families as well as healthier local economies. We need to bridge the digital divide for rural communities to thrive in a 21st century economy, and I'm glad Senator Shaheen is fighting on our behalf on this very important issue."
"There is no question that broadband Internet service is fundamental to economic recovery and ultimately future growth in large rural portions of New Hampshire," said Ted Jastrzembski, a member of the New Hampshire Telecommunication Advisory Board. "The ARRA broadband provision has the potential to catalyze improvements for rural communities in education, health care delivery, public safety, and job creation with this important technology."
The full text of the letter to Acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps follows:
March 9, 2009
Acting Chairman Michael J. Copps
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20554
Dear Acting Chairman Copps:
As you begin the process of coordinating the broadband initiatives provided in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), we urge you to prioritize deploying basic broadband to currently unserved areas. The legislation provided federal agencies with $7 billion for broadband deployment programs, but it also contained a number of priorities for agencies to consider in allocating those funds. Bringing broadband to unserved rural areas, however, must be our first priority because economic recovery will be difficult to achieve in rural communities without broadband access.
It is widely understood that high-speed broadband is a crucial driver of economic recovery, creating jobs and enhancing our global competitiveness. Currently, many areas are served only by dial-up, which can be very slow in rural areas. By providing access to high-speed broadband to places that only have access to dial-up connections, many rural communities will experience the development that broadband allows. Broadband access will spur job creation in rural areas hardest hit by the recession. Broadband will also be central to improving educational opportunities and delivering health care more efficiently, important benefits that also contribute to economic growth.
As you know, lowering health care costs is essential to economic recovery. Broadband networks enable innovative use of telemedicine services and applications, allowing more cost-effective and quality care, greater access to specialists, and remote monitoring of patient vital signs and diagnostic information by doctors. Perhaps most important, telemedicine gives rural and low-income communities access to medical experts even at great distance.
In addition, broadband networks are an essential part of improving educational opportunities for students. Access to broadband has transformed education by improving learning outcomes, serving multiple learning styles, and expanding access to high quality courses. It also allows for instant feedback between teachers and students and individual tailoring of instruction.
Without access to broadband, many rural communities will be unable to realize the benefits of economic recovery as intended in the ARRA. We urge you to make deploying broadband to unserved areas your first priority in dispensing the considerable resources accorded to broadband by Congress in the ARRA.
Thank you for considering these views.
U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Mark Begich (D-AK), Sam Brownback (R-KS), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Kay Hagan (D-NC), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
CC: Commissioner Jonathan S. Adelstein
Commissioner Robert McDowell