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House Passes Bill to Speed Rural Broadband Grants

A rural ranch in Montana
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The House last week passed the Eliminating Barriers to Rural Internet Development Grant Eligibility (E-BRIDGE) Act, which makes it easier for the Economic Development Administration (which is under the Department of Commerce) to hand out money to help close the rural digital divide.

The bill was bipartisan and came out of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Specifically, it amends the Public Works and Economic Development Act of 1965 to remove barriers to broadband projects undertaken with EDA grants, including difficult last-mile projects, and ensures that the private sector and local communities can team up for broadband projects, including giving those communities more flexibility in meeting funding match requirements.

There is no minimum definition of high-speed broadband eligible for the grants, but it must have “sufficient downstream and upstream speeds to end users to permit effective participation in the economy and to support economic growth,” as determined by the Secretary of Commerce.

The Biden administration has pushed for, and Congress has just passed, the largest-ever U.S. government investment in broadband buildouts — $65 billion.