EXCLUSIVE: Madison Cawthorn introduces bill calling on Democrats to get high-speed internet to rural areas without the need to sign Biden’s $4 trillion infrastructure plan
- Representatives Madison Cawthorn unveiled a broadband bill Tuesday that will get high-speed internet to rural communities
- The ROBUST Act is separate legislation that aims to pressure Congress to pass it individually instead of lumping it into Joe Biden’s $4 trillion infrastructure plan
- ‘There are very few bipartisan issues in Washington,’ Cawthorn told DailyMail.com. But providing accessibility to high speed broadband ought to transcend establishment politics’
Madison Cawthorn introduced a new bill on Tuesday calling on Democrats to pass a separate broadband bill to get internet service to rural communities without making it contingent on Biden’s $4 trillion infrastructure plan.
‘There are very few bipartisan issues in Washington, but putting Americans first and providing accessibility to high speed broadband ought to transcend establishment politics,’ Cawthorn told DailyMail.com.
‘The American people, especially those in rural areas, need access to critical infrastructure, like broadband, in order for them to compete in a post COVID-19 economy,’ he said of his new legislation. ‘This bill, the ROBUST act, puts people over politics and pragmatic policy over partisan politicking.’
Cawthorn represents a mostly rural district in North Carolina‘s 11th congressional district.
Representatives Madison Cawthorn (left) and Trent Kelly (right) are co-sponsoring a broadband bill that will get high-speed internet to rural communities – like the districts they represent
The ROBUST Act is separate legislation that aims to pressure Congress to pass it individually instead of lumping it into Joe Biden’s $4 trillion infrastructure plan
The Rural Opportunities for Broadband in Underserved Settlements and Towns Act, or ROBUST, will require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) check where internet spectrum is lacking and provide more opportunities for smaller providers to compete.
The bill is co-sponsored by Cawthorn and GOP Representative Trent Kelly of Mississippi’s 1st congressional district.
Specifically, the bill looks to address rural broadband discrepancies when compared with it’s suburban and urban counterparts.
Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the vast majority of America’s workforce has shifted to teleworking or some sort of hybrid work-from-home situation. This has exacerbated issues with sparse – and sometimes nonexistent – internet service in rural areas in the U.S.
President Joe Biden’s administration is looking to expand broadband as part of the American Job’s Plan, which includes more than $2.6 trillion in new spending.
A factsheet on the plan says Biden plans to ‘invest resources wisely to deliver infrastructure projects that produce real results’ – and one way of doing that is delivering ‘high-speed broadband to all Amricans.’
‘President Biden’s plan will… bring affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband to every American, including the more than 35 per cent of rural Americans who lack access to broadband at minimally acceptable speeds,’ the plan details.
Cawthron and Kelly, however, are calling on separate action regarding internet access.
The ROBUST Act would make funds available for United States Department of Agriculture ReConnect Program loan applicants and make sure they are able to provide appropriate speeds.
The FCC current benchmark for high-speed internet is download speeds of 25 megabits per second and upload speeds of 3 megabits per second.
Biden admits in a fact sheet on his infrastructure plan: ‘Broadband internet is the new electricity.’
‘It is necessary for Americans to do their jobs, to participate equally in school learning, health care, and to stay connected,’ it says. ‘Yet, by one definition, more than 30 million Americans live in areas where there is no broadband infrastructure that provides minimally acceptable speeds. Americans in rural areas and on tribal lands particularly lack adequate access.’
Cawthron believes lawmakers should be committed to delivering broadband to Americans regardless of a separate, larger infrastructure plan.
‘America’s greatest resource is its people,’ the 25-year-old North Carolina congressman said in a statement on the legislation. ‘The ROBUST Act will help ensure we’re being good stewards of that resource and leaving no one behind.’