Shaheen Helps Introduce Bill to Support Rural Broadband Connectivity During Pandemic

March 19, 2021

**The bill would appropriate $2 billion to help small broadband companies provide critical internet connectivity for students and their families during the coronavirus pandemic** 

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) joined Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND) in reintroducing the Keeping Critical Connections Act to help small broadband providers ensure rural broadband connectivity for students and their families during the coronavirus pandemic. This legislation would appropriate $2 billion for a Keeping Critical Connections fund at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under which small broadband providers with fewer than 250,000 customers could be compensated for broadband services under certain conditions.

“From students enrolled in virtual classes to families trying to stay in touch with loved ones during the pandemic, Granite Staters rely on high speed internet to go about their daily lives,” said Shaheen. “I applaud small companies who’ve offered free and discounted broadband services to ensure rural communities aren’t left behind during this crisis. But critical funding is needed to make sure these providers can afford to continue providing low-cost broadband to families in need, which is exactly what this bill seeks to do. I’ll keep working in the Senate to keep our communities connected, regardless of zip code or income.”

Senator Shaheen, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has long championed federal support for investments in broadband and infrastructure and has consistently included federal support in yearly government funding legislation. In fiscal year (FY) 2020 legislation signed into law last year, Shaheen successfully secured funding for a new program through the Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC) to support projects that increase access to high-speed broadband and enhance the region’s capacity for business retention and expansion. In FY 2021, she secured another $5 million to fund broadband initiatives through the NBRC.

Last month, Shaheen celebrated new guidance from the Department of Treasury regarding the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program that broadens the permissible use of emergency rental funds. The change came after Shaheen led a New Hampshire congressional delegation letter urging the Department to make changes, including expanding funds to assist with important utilities like internet and telephone services, which are particularly important for Granite Staters to stay connected amid the pandemic.