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Dems call for $40B to boost rural broadband

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Congressional Democrats are calling for a $40 billion investment to expand internet access in rural and inner-city communities, likening their plan to New Deal efforts to expand the electrical grid.

The new proposal is the latest addition to the party’s “Better Deal” agenda launched in July.

Democrats say public funds are needed because internet service providers on their own have failed to cover large swaths of the population.

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“I know it’s hard to believe, but there are places in rural America where there is no internet access or really slow broadband,” Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) said in a statement announcing the proposal. 

“There are places where students can’t download the latest biology research, where first time home buyers have to physically deliver paperwork to their lender instead of email it, and where doctors can’t FaceTime with their patients. Rural Americans deserve a better deal than that.”

Under the plan, the $40 billion would go toward funding private and public infrastructure projects, mapping internet access across the country, upgrading outdated internet capabilities and building out public safety infrastructure.

The proposal was unveiled Thursday by Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Tester, along with Reps. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), Terri Sewell (D-Ala.), Rick Nolan (D-Minn.) and Ann McLane Kuster (D-N.H.).

The group says that the plan was modeled on the Rural Electrification Act, a New Deal-era bill that they credit with increasing access to electricity from 10 percent of Americans in 1936 to 90 percent by 1950.

Tags Cheri Bustos Debbie Stabenow Ed Markey Joe Manchin Jon Tester Terri Sewell

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