House Ag Takes up Broadband, Soil Health, Rail Service This Week

Broadband, soil health, and rail service are all topics before the House Ag Committee this week as the House returns from summer recess. Broadband and soil health practices are before the full Ag panel, while rail service is in front of two House subcommittees, though broadband, part of the farm bill, is probably the highest-profile of the three issues.

Congress approved $65 billion for broadband nationally as part of the Infrastructure and Jobs Act, but FCC service mapping needed to target the funds hit some early roadblocks that are now cleared. Biden administration’s infrastructure adviser Mitch Landrieu, earlier; “The expectation is, before the end of the year sometime that they will have made substantial progress on the work that they’re doing, and that the programs out of the Department of Commerce and the Department of Agriculture will be part of that.”

Broadband is critical for rural homes, hospitals, schools, libraries, businesses, and farmers, but not just any broadband. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack; “The goal isn’t just to have internet. The goal is to have high-speed internet. And that’s the beauty of this infrastructure bill, this bipartisan infrastructure bill because it provides the Department of Agriculture with additional resources to address that issue.”

USDA just announced more than $1 billion in round 4 of its ReConnect Program for providers to expand rural high-speed internet access, adding to the $1.8 billion invested so far.

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