AIRWAVES Act will help bridge the urban-rural digital divide by investing in broadband infrastructure
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Increased connectivity is both a necessary component of success and the source of future economic growth for urban and rural communities, yet much of rural America lacks quality access to broadband. And for rural communities, increased connectivity can mean improving health outcomes with innovative remote medical care, empowering farmers with new tools to boost crop yields, and encouraging new businesses to call rural communities home. 

While the diverse geography of areas like Colorado’s Eastern Plains and New Hampshire’s North Country and Monadnock Valley provide unique challenges to broadband infrastructure buildout, those obstacles should never prevent rural Americans from being able to participate in an increasingly digital, interconnected world. 

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To help address these challenges and unlock future U.S. economic potential, we came together to introduce the bipartisan AIRWAVES Act

As innovative companies work to create future networks, they must have access to additional spectrum. AIRWAVES achieves this objective by establishing a defined spectrum pipeline, which will provide more capacity for wireless providers to improve existing service and expand to new areas. The AIRWAVES Act will also help prepare America to deploy 5G, which will provide benefits to our people and businesses and is critical for our nation’s international competiveness. Estimates have found that the potential benefits of the deployment of 5G networks include three million new jobs, $275 billion in investment from the wireless industry, and a boost of $500 billion to the economy.

In addition to these benefits, the AIRWAVES Act will help close the urban-rural digital divide by investing in broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas. Our bill requires that 10 percent of all the proceeds of national spectrum auctions be used to advance broadband access in rural communities across the country.

In order for the U.S. to maintain our competitive edge, we must win the race to 5G, while also promoting solutions to close the urban-rural digital divide. The AIRWAVES Act enables us to do both. 

This improved connectivity will not come at a cost to taxpayers. Instead, the money telecommunications companies choose to spend on new spectrum in the auctions will finance this much-needed rural broadband expansion. 

Had this policy been in place during the FCC’s two most recent spectrum auctions, more than $6 billion could have already been invested in advancing connectivity across rural America.

For hard-to-reach communities on Colorado’s Western Slope and in rural towns throughout New Hampshire, these funds would represent a substantial investment in mobile broadband.

We have come together because we both understand that dependable mobile broadband is critical for the success of rural communities, and members of the House and Senate from both sides of the aisle have joined us in supporting this crucial legislation. This plan has gained bipartisan support because it represents a common sense approach that could expand mobile broadband connectivity without any cost to taxpayers, and positions the United States at the forefront of the global telecommunications revolution.

Our focus on U.S. innovation and competitiveness will help revitalize rural communities that are currently being left out of the 21st Century’s transformative technologies and interconnected economy.

As we work to close the digital divide, we must promote innovative ways to invest in connecting rural America with mobile broadband and the AIRWAVES Act will help us do just that.

Gardner and Hassan are members of the Commerce Committee.