WASHINGTON—Members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry received an update from U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on the implementation of the 2018 Farm Bill. U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), a strong supporter of the bill, urged its expeditious implementation and questioned the secretary about the progress of USDA programs to improve rural broadband.
“One of the biggest challenges facing Arkansas – and much of rural America – is access to reliable broadband,” Boozman said.
The 2018 Farm Bill allows USDA to leverage grants and loans with loan guarantees to fund projects that deploy high-speed broadband in rural America. Coupled with the December 2018 launch of USDA’s ReConnect Program to facilitate broadband deployment, the farm bill made positive policy changes to increase opportunities for rural areas to get resources to bridge the digital divide.
Boozman recognized the enthusiasm toward the ReConnect Program and has supported the department’s efforts to improve connectivity in rural communities.
“There has been immense interest in [the ReConnect Program]. My goal in doing that was to administer that and deploy those resources in a way that you all trusted us to do more because we need a moonshot about broadband connectivity across this country in order to do the things that we think will bring our nation back together from a rural-urban perspective,” Perdue said.
According to FCC’s 2018 Broadband Deployment Report, about a quarter of Arkansas’s population doesn’t have access to broadband.
Boozman is a co-chair of the Senate Broadband Caucus. He is actively leading efforts to strengthen broadband deployment in Arkansas and across the country.