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Graves & Guest Introduce Bill to Spur High-Speed Broadband Projects in Rural & Economically Distressed Communities

A bill to remove barriers for communities seeking to use Economic Development Administration (EDA) grants to develop high-speed broadband access was introduced in the House of Representatives today by Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO) and Rep. Michael Guest (R-MS). 

The Eliminating Barriers to Rural Internet Development Grant Eligibility (E-BRIDGE) Act removes hurdles for broadband projects under EDA grants, including difficult last-mile efforts that often delay rural broadband deployment.  It also ensures that local communities can partner with the private sector in carrying out broadband projects and gives communities more flexibility in complying with their funding match requirements. 

“Over the last year, Americans have had to work, go to school, buy food and supplies, and receive critical medical care all without leaving their homes.  The one thing that has made this feasible for many is high-speed broadband.  Unfortunately, too many of our communities, particularly in rural America, still lack broadband access.  In some cases, just completing that ‘last mile’ is what stands in the way of connecting people to a job or the services they need,” Graves said.  “The E-BRIDGE Act bill will help spur projects that get our rural and poor communities online, for better preparing them for medical emergencies such as the current pandemic and for attracting jobs and business for future economic development.”

“The E-BRIDGE Act would implement modern approaches to economic development and create new opportunities for individuals to work, attend school, socialize, and access healthcare in every corner of our country,” said Guest.  “This legislation is a strong step towards meeting the goal of ending the digital divide and delivering broadband to every American community.”

By helping to increase the reach of broadband to rural and economically distressed communities, the E-BRIDGE Act will help:

  • Attract new businesses and support current businesses in distressed regions of the country,
  • Strengthen healthcare systems and delivery of medical care to vulnerable populations,
  • Lay the groundwork for economic recovery in these areas, and
  • Better prepare these communities for future disasters or epidemics.

    The E-BRIDGE Act helps accomplish these goals because it:

  • Eliminates barriers to investments in broadband in distressed communities, making them eligible for EDA grants.
  • Clarifies that eligible recipients may include public-private partnerships and consortiums to leverage private sector expertise in project development.
  • Provides flexibility in the procurement process to account for limited availability of broadband services in distressed communities.
  • Clarifies that funds can be combined with other federal resources.
  • Provides flexibility on accounting for in-kind methods to meet non-federal cost share.

    The Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management have jurisdiction over the programs of the EDA and its economic development programs.

    Click here to read the bill.

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