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Chairman David Scott Opening Statement at Hearing “A 2022 Review of the Farm Bill: Broadband”

WASHINGTON House Agriculture Committee Chairman David Scott delivered the following statement at today's hearing “A 2022 Review of the Farm Bill: Broadband.”

[As prepared for delivery]

Good morning and thank you for joining us. Today we are here to discuss the collaborative efforts of the USDA, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in awarding broadband funding and examine the role these agencies play in achieving our goal of 100% nationwide connectivity.

Broadband is a critical tool for rural development, but inaccessibility to high-speed internet remains a major barrier for rural communities. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the necessity of reliable broadband as workplaces and businesses migrated online, and health care facilities and schools transitioned to telehealth and distance learning.

In response, Congress made substantial investments in broadband funding to existing and newly established Federal broadband programs dispersed across multiple Federal entities. Of those investments, the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act made the largest Federal broadband investment in our nation’s history, totaling nearly $65 billion for broadband programs at FCC, NTIA, and USDA, the primary agencies that administer existing broadband deployment grant programs.

As we move toward the 2023 Farm Bill, we must understand how these agencies plan to communicate and collaborate to effectively reach our shared goal of 100% nationwide coverage, which is why we established procedures for interagency coordination among USDA, NTIA, and FCC in the 2018 Farm Bill. We must continue to engage with each other to ensure effective coordination, evaluate the agencies’ responses, and address any barriers that may exist.  

Rural broadband will continue to be a major focus of this Committee. We previously held a committee hearing to examine barriers to broadband connectivity and solutions and opportunities to overcome those impediments. Ranking Member Thompson and I also introduced the Broadband Internet Connections for Rural America Act which would make crucial and significant investments in the USDA broadband program to expand broadband in rural areas. As always, I’d like to thank the Ranking Member for his bipartisan cooperation and willingness to work with me on this issue.

We are always thankful to be joined by Under Secretary Torres Small and grateful to hear from our second panel of witnesses. Your combined experiences and interactions with these agencies will help us get a clearer scope of how broadband deployment is working on the ground. I look forward to your testimonies.

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