WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley today announced that for the third year in a row, his rural development subcommittee has put more than a half-billion dollars to bringing high-speed internet to rural America. The 2020 Agriculture and Rural Development spending bill includes $555 million—bringing the three-year total to nearly $1.6 billion—to build broadband infrastructure across America, improving rural communities’ economies, health care, and quality of life.
“I do a town hall in every country in Oregon every year, and I keep hearing that too many rural communities still don’t have access to high-speed internet—a fundamental need in today’s connected world,” Merkley said. “Already Grant and Wheeler counties have been awarded funding to extend broadband across more than 242 square miles, and that is just the start. This additional funding will improve the economy, education, and quality of life for folks all across rural Oregon.”
In 2018, Merkley secured an initial $600 million investment in rural broadband in the 2018 spending bill, through his role as the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture and Rural Development. He won $500 million for the program in the 2019 spending bill.
Through the ReConnect pilot program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture makes available grants, low-interest loans, and loan and grant combinations. Projects funded through the program will serve communities with fewer than 20,000 people that currently have no broadband service, or have service that is extremely slow.
The House and Senate are both expected to vote on the spending package this week. From there, it goes to the president’s desk to be signed into law.