One of New York Congressman Antonio Delgado’s major areas of focus is improving rural broadband. He recently hosted a field hearing on the subject with the FCC commissioner, and has introduced various pieces of legislation.
Congressman Delgado, a Democrat from the 19th House district, convened a Congressional Field Hearing with Federal Communications Commissioner Geoffrey Starks early in October called “Closing the Digital Divide: Connecting Rural Americans to Reliable Internet Service.” It was not lost on him that there was no service in the auditorium at Columbia-Greene Community College.
“Following the hearing, I’ve introduced the Broadband Speed Act and the Community Broadband Mapping Act,” Delgado says. “This legislative package will address flawed broadband mapping practices that result in the FCC over counting rural communities and require that projects funded with FCC money are future-proof.”
Meaning, built to withstand changes in technology.
“This legislation would also allow local governments, co-ops, community groups and small providers to access funding that would allow them to collect information on local broadband service in order to challenge a finding that they are, in fact, served,” Delgado says. “I urge the House to take up this legislation and close the digital divide.”
That was Delgado speaking on the House floor two weeks after the hearing, calling access to rural broadband an urgent crisis. The FCC hearing was held during one of his in-district work weeks, and he soon after briefed reporters about the Broadband Speed Act.
“Under current law, broadband providers are only required to report to the FCC on the speed that they advertise they can provide to any given census block,” Delgado says. “The Broadband Speed Act would require broadband providers to reports to the FCC on the speed they can actually provide, based on speed testing.”
The Democrat says the bill contains an enforcement mechanism, to fine providers if they knowingly submit inaccurate data about the speed they can actually provide.
“It’s not specified exactly yet,” says Delgado. “We’re going to leave that in the hands of the FCC to dictate exactly what the nature of the fine is going to be, but, the fact is, there will be some type of fine.”
Less than a week after his comments on the House floor, Delgado joined U.S. Representatives Rodney Davis, an Illinois Republican, and Abigail Spanberger, a Virginia Democrat, in a letter with 46 of their House colleagues calling on lawmakers to prioritize funding to support high-speed broadband internet infrastructure projects across rural America. They urged leaders of various Senate and House Appropriations subcommittees to increase federal investment in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural eConnectivity Pilot Program. The ReConnect Program partners with businesses and local officials to expand high-speed internet infrastructure and increase e-Connectivity in rural and underserved communities across the country. Delgado’s 19th District is the third most rural Democratic-held district, and the eighth most rural district overall.