A group of senators launched a new caucus to promote broadband deployment on Tuesday.
The so-called Senate Broadband Caucus was founded by five upper chamber lawmakers from states with significant rural populations, where connectivity is often limited.
“From online business startups to digital learning and telemedicine, broadband access is critical to the strength of our economy and our communities,” said Rep. Shelley Moore Capito in a statement. “Unfortunately, the digital divide between rural and urban America is growing as essential broadband infrastructure falls behind in certain parts of the country,”
The other members of the caucus are Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and John Boozman (R-Ark.).
That divide remains stark between the internet access available to most urban Americans and the limited options available to people in rural areas.
Roughly thirty-four million Americans in total lack access to high-speed internet, according to a Federal Communications Commission report in January.
Thirty-nine percent of rural Americans lack access to high-speech broadband — a number that grows for 41 percent of people on tribal lands — compared to only four percent of urban Americans.
Internet service providers often don’t do as well hooking up rural areas both because households are often remote and because it is sometimes economically implausible to build out service there, given the small number of residents.