WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.), a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, released the following statement after President Donald Trump announced new executive actions to promote broadband expansion in rural areas.
“President Trump’s focus on expanding broadband to rural areas is good news for Missouri farmers, ranchers, and, most importantly, families,” Blunt said. “Today, an estimated 61 percent of rural Missourians lack access to broadband. By ending the digital divide, we will help our agriculture industry thrive and meet world food demand. We will provide students and teachers access to new learning tools and educational opportunities. We will enable small businesses to compete in a global economy. And, we will expand access to quality healthcare through telemedicine. As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, I’ll continue working with the administration and my Senate colleagues to bring high-speed internet to every community in Missouri.”
As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, Blunt is committed to ending the digital divide. In a recent op-edand floor speech, Blunt underscored the need to expand rural broadband, noting that an increasing number of farmers are utilizing wireless infrastructure, GPS, data centers, autonomous systems, and fiber optics for precision agriculture and high-speed commodity trading.
Last year, Blunt urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to act on $2 billion in funds available for rural broadband, and to open this money up to auction so new entrants in this field, like electrical cooperatives, could competitively bid. Following Blunt’s letter, the FCC did so, and the Commission subsequently considered a notice to initiate the pre-auction process for this money to deploy fiber optics in rural parts of Missouri.
In January 2017, Blunt joined a number of his Senate colleagues in sending a bipartisan letter to President Trump regarding the importance of broadband, and expanding access in rural areas as part of any infrastructure legislation Congress and the administration may consider.
Blunt has also advocated for reforms to the Universal Service Fund, which would allow the program to leverage its limited resources more effectively to bring broadband to unserved households and businesses.