Source: United States House of Representatives – Representative Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07)
HENRICO, V.A. – U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger held her 2019 Rural Broadband Summit on Saturday, August 17 to hear about how a lack of reliable broadband internet access is impacting families, farmers, first responders, and small business owners across Central Virginia.
During Spanberger’s Rural Broadband Summit at Louisa County High School, community members had the opportunity to share their personal experiences with officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). Attendees heard about ongoing broadband expansion efforts from a panel consisting of Spanberger, University of Virginia Associate Professor Christopher Ali, USDA Rural Utilities Service Field Representative Richard Jenkins, and BroadbandUSA Chief of External Affairs Aimee Meacham. Constituents were then invited to share their broadband-related questions and concerns with the panelists.
Following the question-and-answer session, attendees participated in small group discussions about the impacts of limited broadband access on specific sectors of the Seventh District’s economy—including healthcare, small businesses, agriculture, education, and first responders.
“Throughout the month of August, Central Virginians have repeatedly expressed their frustrations about limited and unreliable broadband internet access. They recognize that the growing digital divide threatens to leave our rural communities behind, especially as the next generation of Virginians seeks to stay competitive in a global economy,” said Spanberger. “Our Rural Broadband Summit was an opportunity for community members to share their personal stories and to actively participate in the larger, national conversation surrounding broadband internet infrastructure and rural development. Following this summit, it’s clear that we need to build a comprehensive strategy to expand rural broadband internet infrastructure—and that process begins by gathering feedback and ideas from those directly impacted on the ground. Going forward, I’ll keep fighting for legislation that strengthens investment in rural broadband infrastructure, improves broadband service mapping, and provides faster internet speeds. I’d also like to thank every constituent who attended our summit, and I hope to have many more conversations with Central Virginians about how we can secure high-speed internet access and greater opportunity for every family and business in Central Virginia.”
“Rural broadband is arguably the most important infrastructure issue facing America today. The fact that millions of Americans don’t have the ability to participate in the digital world needs to be corrected immediately,” said Christopher Ali, Associate Professor of Media Studies, University of Virginia. “Federal policy and local digital champions play crucial roles in correcting this digital divide, and I am thrilled to be a part of Congresswoman Spanberger’s summit that brings these two communities together.”
“High-speed broadband e-Connectivity is becoming more and more essential to doing business, delivering health care, and, for schoolchildren, doing homework in rural communities,” said Elizabeth Walker Green, Virginia State Director, USDA Rural Development. “Rural Development works to further the deployment and use of broadband and other technologies across America.”
The 2019 Rural Broadband Summit builds on Spanberger’s efforts to amplify and collect the stories of Central Virginians who are currently facing unnecessary challenges due to the absence of broadband internet in their community. Earlier this year, she collected these stories through her 2019 Rural Broadband Survey, in which she asked Central Virginians to describe how a lack of reliable broadband access has personally impacted them, their families, or their businesses.
Spanberger’s Rural Broadband Summit is part of her continued “Securing the Future” August in-district work period. This focus includes understanding how strengthened broadband infrastructure across Central Virginia can secure long-term job security for local workers and support new startups and small businesses.
Since arriving in the U.S. House, Spanberger has worked to expand high-speed broadband internet access across Central Virginia’s rural communities, including by:
- Fighting for strengthened funding for rural broadband internet infrastructure in the communities that need it. In June, Spanberger successfully led the fight to approve a bipartisan amendment that would increase federal rural broadband infrastructure funding by $55 million. The amendment was passed by the House as part of an appropriations package. And Spanberger also introduced and passed an amendment to improve FCC broadband internet data—and she articulated the need for improved FCC maps on the floor of the U.S. House, particularly as it impacts the eligibility of Central Virginia communities for federal funding.
- Bringing the eConnectivity concerns of Central Virginians directly to USDA leadership. During her first House Agriculture Committee hearing, Spanberger asked USDA Secretary Perdue about his thoughts on expanding rural broadband. Spanberger also invited Secretary Perdue to visit her district to hear directly from Central Virginia farmers and dairy producers, and get their feedback on current USDA policies and 2018 Farm Bill implementation. He accepted her invitation. Click here for a full video of her remarks.
- Working with colleagues to find common ground on rural broadband policy. Earlier this year, Spanberger announced her appointment to a new task force focused on expanding high-speed internet access in rural communities. The House Task Force on Rural Broadband will provide coordination and leadership to increase investment in rural broadband internet infrastructure across the United States, and it will operate under an overarching goal to make sure all Americans have reliable access to high-speed internet by 2025. And as Co-Chair of the Blue Dog Coalition’s rural opportunity task force, she co-authored an op-ed on Fox News online to highlight the need to pursue smart, bipartisan rural broadband infrastructure policies.