Press Releases

Graves Leads Introduction of Bill to Spur High-Speed Broadband Projects for Job Growth in Rural & Economically Distressed Communities

Washington, D.C., March 23, 2023 | Justin Harclerode (202) 225-9446
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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.

The Eliminating Barriers to Rural Internet Development Grant Eligibility (E-BRIDGE) Act was re-introduced for the 118th Congress by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO), along with Rep. Jenniffer González Colón (R-PR), Rep. Tracey Mann (R-KS), and Rep. Michael Guest (R-MS).  The bill 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. 

“Increasing numbers of Americans are regularly working, buying food and supplies, and receiving critical medical care without leaving their homes, thanks to high-speed broadband.  These services and abilities have become critical for many businesses and job creators.  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 they need,” Graves said.  “The E-BRIDGE Act will help spur projects that attract jobs and businesses to expand economic development and opportunity in rural and poor communities.”

“In rural areas and disadvantaged communities across the nation, the opportunities for business development, distance education, remote work and telemedicine are limited by the challenges to access high-speed connections in these homes, small businesses and community institutions,” said González Colón.  “E-BRIDGE will be important to reduce the gap between these and more developed urban centers.  Especially in communities that face disaster recovery like in Puerto Rico, where we need to be able to rebuild our networks for greater resiliency.” 

“For America to thrive, people in rural America must thrive,” said Mann.  “We all rely on high-speed broadband for both our personal and professional lives, and communities making investments in their own rural broadband access shouldn’t have to deal with mountains of red tape while they do it.  The E-BRIDGE Act will help rural communities bolster their own economic vitality and strengthen their connection to one another and the world.”

“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,” Guest said.  “This legislation is a strong step towards meeting the goal of ending the digital divide and delivering broadband to every American community.  I’d like to thank Chairman Graves and the Members on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for their continued leadership on this important piece of legislation that would eliminate hurdles and leverage Economic Development Administration dollars to invest in broadband deployment across America's communities.”

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,
  • 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 last-mile broadband projects 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 and broadband deployment,
  • 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, and
  • 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.

    Chairman Graves introduced the E-BRIDGE Act in both the 116th and 117th Congress.  It passed the House of Representatives with overwhelming support on November 4, 2021.

    Click here to read the bill.

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