Opening Statements

Opening Statement: Ranking Member Mike Conaway Subcommittee on Commodity Exchanges, Energy, and Credit Public Hearing: “Building Opportunity in Rural America through Affordable, Reliable and High-Speed Broadband"

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Washington, July 11, 2019 | comments

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

Mr. Chairman, thank you for scheduling this hearing. It is an important topic, and one that has been top of mind for our members for a long time.

As the Ranking Member noted in his opening statement, broadband access is not about convenience, it’s about being able to participate in modern life and the economy, which is rapidly moving onto the Internet. For those who lack access, their lives are fundamentally different than those who have access. As Ms. Mollgaard noted in her written testimony, broadband is a platform – a generic technology – that is powerful because it enables the creation of other tools and technologies.

The importance of broadband is one of the many reasons that I am so proud of the Farm Bill we passed last December. We worked together, across the aisle and across the Capitol, to take the best ideas for how to build broadband infrastructure in rural communities.

We not only provided a new grant program to build broadband where it is needed. But also new requirements to build what is needed for the long haul. The forward-looking standards that we passed will make sure that new broadband projects provide high-quality Internet service long into the future.

Because of the 2018 Farm Bill, USDA also has the ability to better target its limited resources to the rural communities most in need. By prioritizing projects, incentivizing investments in more rural territories, and requiring better assessments of proposed service territories, we will be able to help our most rural and least equipped communities, while protecting taxpayers.

Finally, we also worked closely with the Energy and Commerce Committee to strengthen the cooperation between USDA, the FCC and the Department of Commerce. One important product of this cooperation will be a comprehensive report on the long-term connectivity needs of rural communities and technology available to help meet those needs.

The 2018 Farm Bill broadband provisions represent a real success story that the members of this committee should be rightly proud of. But, that success will be for naught if the Appropriators don’t actually fund the programs we authorized. I am hopeful that before the ink is dry on our FY2020 appropriations package, it includes robust funding for the programs we worked so hard on.

Let me also add my thanks to our witnesses for their diligence, preparation, and travel to be with us today. I look forward to your testimony.

Mr. Chairman, thank you for calling this hearing and building out the record of how important broadband is for all of our constituents. I look forward to working with you, Chairman Peterson, Ranking Member Scott, and the rest of our committee members in continuing to advance our good work together. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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