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Rural Broadband Access Is Focus of McCaskill Oversight - KOAM TV 7

Rural Broadband Access Is Focus of McCaskill Oversight

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U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (Missouri) U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (Missouri)
WASHINGTON -

U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, the top-ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, is requesting data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on its efforts to support rural broadband in Missouri and across the country. USDA gives grants, loans and other support to promote rural broadband, but it has not submitted required information to Congress that would allow for important Congressional oversight. According to the most recent government data, 61 percent of rural Missourians do not have broadband access.

“From submitting a job application to booking a doctor’s appointment, access to reliable phone and internet access is vital,” McCaskill said. “But too many people in rural Missouri are at a disadvantage when it comes to broadband access. The Department of Agriculture needs to submit the required data to Congress so I can do my part in making sure these programs are helping rural Missourians.”

The Rural Broadband Access Loan and Loan Guarantee program provides millions each year to support rural broadband, and USDA is required to submit reports to Congress and make other information on the program publicly accessible. This has not yet occurred, and McCaskill is requesting all of the required documents so she can conduct oversight on the program to ensure its effectiveness. “USDA programs provide an important source of funding for rural broadband,” McCaskill wrote. “In order to ensure that the resources are used efficiently, it is vital that Congress and the American public have the information necessary to conduct oversight on this program…[and] ensure that essential rural broadband projects are funded, and that they use taxpayer money effectively and efficiently.”

McCaskill is a leading voice in the Senate for improving access to affordable, reliable forms of communication in small towns and rural communities. Last month, following McCaskill’s call for Verizon to reverse course on its plan to drop nearly 8,500 rural customers nationally—including approximately 400 Missourians—from access to wireless broadband service within 30 days, Verizon has announced it will allow affected customers who want to stay with Verizon to do so after changing service plans, and allow more time for those who wish to leave the carrier altogether to do so. McCaskill also recently backed bipartisan legislation to ensure Missourians in rural communities receive reliable and affordable phone call quality. Additionally, McCaskill introduced the Community Broadband Act to improve internet access in rural communities by protecting the rights of localities—which often face significant cost and other barriers—to build municipal broadband networks. McCaskill also held a roundtable in August at the Missouri State Fair with federal and local officials to discuss the importance of rural broadband. 

Read McCaskill’s letter to USDA HERE:

Visit mccaskill.senate.gov/rural to learn more about McCaskill's fight to protect rural Missouri.

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