Republican U.S. House member Vicky Hartzler of Missouri is seeking to include rural broadband in the next farm bill. Monday, Hartzler introduced the Expanding Rural Access to Broadband Act, which she says would make necessary changes to existing Rural Utilities Telecommunications programs to ensure rural Americans aren’t left behind in the digital age. Hartzler says she plans to work with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway to include the legislation in the next farm bill, which is expected to be released soon.
Hartzler serves on the House Agriculture Committee, which oversees the Rural Utilities Service. The bill would modify the Rural Utilities Telecommunications loan program to include loan guarantees, find ways to incentivize private investment, streamline loan applications and raise statute baseline speeds for broadband deployment. Current law sets a minimum standard speed of four megabits per second download and one megabit per second upload, and this bill would increase the baseline to 25 megabits per second download and three megabits per second upload.