What They’re Saying: Broadband Provisions Secured by Shaheen and Hassan in Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal Will Help NH Bridge Digital Divide

August 12, 2021

**Shaheen was a Lead Negotiator of the Infrastructure Package, Steered Bipartisan Talks on Broadband & Water Infrastructure**

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) celebrated the Senate’s passage of the bipartisan infrastructure deal this week, including provisions around bolstering broadband, which Senator Shaheen, as the lead negotiator of the broadband working group, and Senator Hassan, as a member of the broadband working group, helped secure. Shaheen’s bipartisan talks with Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) secured $65 billion in grants to support broadband deployment and other efforts to bridge the digital divide, which is especially critical in rural parts of New Hampshire. The bill also includes Senator Hassan’s effort to use private activity bonds to help pay for high-speed internet infrastructure in unserved locations.  

The infrastructure package also builds on the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) Program by investing $14.2 billion to continue assisting qualified households in accessing affordable high-speed internet. This portion also includes a fix that Senators Shaheen and Hassan advocated for to ensure that NH Electric Coop members would be eligible for this broadband benefit.

Strengthening broadband networks will help communities across New Hampshire access critical services and compete in the 21st century economy. Here’s what Granite State leaders are saying about the broadband provisions:

 “Access to affordable and reliable internet access is critical if we are going to lift families out of poverty. Without affordable internet, people cannot access jobs that pay a higher living wage, accommodate child care and provide better benefits as more employers move to remote working,” Betsey Andrews Parker, CEO of the Community Action Partnership of Strafford County. “Additionally, families in our service area without affordable internet were hit hard when schools went remote. Not only were students literally left out of remote schooling due to lack of internet but the wage earners were not able to work remotely, sending their families further into debt and struggling to make ends meet. We appreciate Senator Shaheen and Hassan’s leadership to make bolstering broadband a key priority in this historic legislation.”

“The Town of Sandwich and its residents have experienced first-hand the challenges rural communities face in providing access to reliable and affordable broadband for education, healthcare, commerce, communication and entertainment. COVID turned these challenges into a crisis. Our town is arguably the internet-neediest in the State and our large land area, hilly and forested terrain, and very low population density make private investment in broadband unrealistic. Without government assistance, high speed internet will not happen in our Town and we will be left behind struggling. We appreciate Senator Shaheen and Hassan’s leadership in fighting for the inclusion of funding for rural broadband in the bipartisan infrastructure bill.,” said Julie Dolan, Chair of the town of Sandwich Broadband Committee.

“The COVID-19 pandemic created an urgency around telehealth as a means for ensuring access to care and revealed the shortfalls in broadband connectivity and the need for major investment in this vital infrastructure. New Hampshire is on the verge of a new, accessible healthcare delivery structure based on telehealth, but not without the essential investment in broadband that the infrastructure bill will bring,” said Danielle Duchesne of the New Hampshire Telehealth Alliance.

“There are two crucial imperatives that the National Collaborative for Digital Equity and our partners see reflected in the legislative package: requiring broadband investment funding recipients to make provisions for affordability for lower-income households, and promoting a systemic approach to digital inclusion through the Digital Equity Act portion of the legislative proposal. Senator Shaheen and Hassan’s leadership during negotiations helped secure these priorities and we’re appreciative of their efforts to get this legislation through the Senate,” said Dr. Robert McLaughlin, Executive Director of the National Collaborative for Digital Equity.

"Closing the digital divide is critical to leveling the playing field for underserved communities in New Hampshire and across the nation. That’s why we are pleased to see key broadband provisions secured by Senators Shaheen and Hassan in the bipartisan infrastructure legislation that passed the Senate, including the formula that provides a minimum allocation of federal resources to every state. We are particularly appreciative that this provision also allows those states that have large unserved areas the opportunity to qualify for additional funding,” said Carol Miller, Director of Broadband Initiatives National Collaborative for Digital Equity. 

“Thanks to Senators Shaheen and Hassan’s hard work, qualifying New Hampshire Electric Cooperative (NHEC) broadband customers will be eligible to receive federal support for their internet access,” said Jeff Morrill, Chairman of NHEC’s Board of Directors. “This assistance will help ensure that all of New Hampshire’s residents will have access to high-speed internet, no matter where they live, or how much money they make.”      

In June, Shaheen joined President Biden and a bipartisan group of 10 senators to announce the framework of the package. The group's 10 Senators - Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Rob Portman (R-OH), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Jon Tester (D-MT), Mark Warner (D-VA) and Shaheen - shepherded the negotiations over the past three months. Last week, Shaheen joined members of the bipartisan group on the Senate floor to unveil the bill text of the legislation. Shaheen is a key negotiator and led provisions on broadband and water infrastructure, which she highlighted during her remarks on the Senate floor last week.

Along with Shaheen, Senator Hassan was one of the 22 negotiators on the bill working closely on provisions related to passenger rail, high-speed internet access, coastal resilience, clean energy and cybersecurity. As a direct result of Senator Hassan’s work, the infrastructure bill included $1 billion for a state and local cybersecurity grant program, which she has developed as chair of the Emerging Threats and Spending Oversight Subcommittee. Senator Hassan’s bill would provide critical funding as the rate of ransomware attacks - like the one that hit Sunapee School District - continue to rise.

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