This is the US Senator in my district in Illinois. It looks like he has
been reading my emails maybe. :-) At least he is getting parts of what I
have been saying.
*DURBIN INTRODUCES BILL TO ENCOURAGE HIGH SPEED INTERNET ACCESS IN RURAL
Friday, August 4, 2006
[WASHINGTON, DC] – U.S Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) says a national policy
is needed to accelerate the deployment of broadband internet service to
rural areas so that every American can have high-speed internet access
no matter where they live. Today, Durbin introduced legislation, the
Broadband for Rural America Act of 2006, to encourage the rapid
deployment of high-quality, affordable broadband internet service,
especially in rural areas.
“Broadband is an essential component of our lives, at work and at home.
It has become an essential service like water, gas and electricity. Our
homes and businesses need affordable access to high speed internet
connections, in the same way our homes and businesses need traditional
utility services,” said Durbin. “Yet, for too many people living in
small communities today, broadband access is still not a reality. When I
travel in downstate Illinois, people tell me that they cannot wait to
have broadband service, but that there is no service available to them
right now. My bill will change that.”
Two recent reports -- one issued by the U.S. Department of Commerce and
the other by the U.S. Department of Agriculture – found that rural and
farm households have access to broadband internet at approximately half
the level of all U.S. households nationwide. Another respected research
organization, the Pew Internet and American Life Project, found similar
results. In its 2006 report, Pew found that only 18% of rural adults
reported a home broadband connection, compared to 31% of urban adults.
All of these studies point to a consistent conclusion: Americans living
in urban areas are almost twice as likely to have home broadband access
as do their rural counterparts.
Durbin said broadband is critical to community and economic development,
as it encourages investment, creates jobs, improves productivity,
fosters innovation, and increases consumer benefits in every corner of
our nation. A recent study found that adoption of current generation
broadband would increase the gross domestic product by $179.7 billion,
while adding approximately 61,000 jobs per year over the two decades.
The study also projected 1.2 million jobs could be created if next
generation broadband technology were rapidly deployed.
“We need to close the digital divide, ensuring that rural Americans are
not left behind in the 21st Century’s digital economy,” Durbin noted.
“Whether it is through telephone wire, cable, fiber, satellite, wireless
or any other medium, we need every existing and future broadband service
provider to step up to the national challenge.”
Durbin said his bill includes four major provisions. Each is designed to
focus on identifying obstacles that hinder broadband deployment in rural
America today, and to find innovative solutions to address those
Creates Broadband Trust Fund: creates a new federal program specifically
targeted at assisting individuals, businesses and co-ops working at the
earliest stages to bring broadband to their communities. Eligible
entities include nonprofits, academic institutions, local governments
and commercial companies that work to identify broadband access needs in
unserved areas of the country. Projects to be funded through this new
program will include feasibility studies, mapping, economic analysis,
and other activities done to determine the reasons for the current lack
of service, and the scale, scope, and type of broadband services most
suitable for the particular unserved area.
Reforms USDA Rural Broadband Program: the current USDA broadband loan
program provides below-market rate loans and loan guarantees for the
construction and improvement of broadband facilities and equipment in
rural areas. This program expires in 2007. Durbin’s bill does three
things with regard to the broadband loan program -- extends the life of
the program for another five years until 2012; refocuses the program
solely on rural areas where it is most needed; and establishes a grant
program to be administered by the same USDA office that currently runs
the rural broadband loan program.
Wireless Broadband Spectrum: requires the Federal Communications
Commission (FCC) to make new spectrum available for wireless broadband
services in rural areas as soon as practicable. The bill also requires
the FCC to evaluate its spectrum auction plans and to divide some of the
frequency allocations into smaller area licenses so that regional and
rural wireless companies can compete in the bidding process. Making
additional spectrum available holds tremendous potential for wireless
broadband to be deployed in rural areas, especially in large geographic
regions where it would be cost prohibitive to build out wires and cable.
Creates Broadband Task Force: establishes a task force consisting of
experts in federal, state, and local governments, trade associations,
public interest organizations, academic institutions, and other areas to
study best practices for rapid deployment of broadband services in
states, particularly those with large unserved rural areas. The bill
requires the task force, within 6 months, to provide to Congress and to
each governor a report detailing a comprehensive list of specific
measures adopted by state or local governments that helped deploy
broadband services in areas that lacked such services.
The legislation has been referred to the Senate Commerce, Science and