Patty Murray Gets Grants for Rural Telecom into Senate Farm Bill

Dec 13 2001

Legislation would provide grants to encourage community telecommunications planning in rural and underserved areas

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – In an effort to bring high-speed internet access to rural and underserved communities, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) today announced that she succeeded in adding legislation to the fiscal year 2002 Farm Bill to provide grants to help rural areas obtain broadband and high-speed internet access.

If adopted, Congress would provide up to $3 million a year in planning grants to help local and tribal governments, non-profits, public utilities, cooperatives and other public groups develop effective, targeted plans to bring high-speed internet access to their areas.

"Our world is changing rapidly and no community should be left behind," said Murray. "High-speed Internet access can enrich our lives through activities like distance-learning and they can save lives through efforts like telemedicine. But the key is access. That's why these grants are so important."

Senator Murray has been a champion for helping underserved and rural communities gain access to high-speed Internet services both in Washington state and nationwide. Two years ago, when local leaders told Senator Murray that their communities needed help getting access to advanced telecommunications services, she formed a statewide working group comprised of more than twenty people representing small and rural communities, universities, ports and public utility districts, telecommunications providers, and local, state, federal and tribal governments to help identify the needs of underserved communities.

She cosponsored the Broadband Internet Access act of 2001 and the Rural Broadband Enhancement Act to encourage companies to build broadband technology in rural areas.

In May, Senator Murray introduced the Community Telecommunications Planning Act of 2001 to support local plans to establish planning grants to help bring Internet access to rural communities.

Beginning in June of 2000, Senator Murray has hosted a statewide "Getting Connected" conference in Spokane and a series of Regional Telecommunications Conferences in Wenatchee, Colville, Bremerton, and Walla Walla.

These conferences have brought together over 1,000 local and community leaders, high-tech executives and government leaders to share information, success stories, challenges and strategies to ensure that all communities gain access to advanced telecommunications services.

"Right now the federal government already provides money to help communities plan for other infrastructure improvements – everything from roads and bridges to wastewater facilities. I believe that advanced telecommunications are the infrastructure of the future, and the federal government should help communities plan for that new infrastructure as well," Murray said.

"But before areas can take advantage of some of the help and incentives that are out there, they need to work together and go through a community planning process. Community plans identify needs, assess demand, create a vision for the future, and show what all the players must do to meet the telecom needs of their community. That's what these grants will help communities to do."