Washington, DC – Today, Reps. Elise Stefanik (R-NY-21) and Mark Pocan (D-WI-02) introduced H.R. 6336 -- the bipartisan Broadband Connections for Rural Opportunities Program (B-CROP) Act to increase internet connectivity in rural communities through a combination of grants and loans. This legislation is a companion bill to one introduced by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) earlier this fall.

“In a 21st century economy, our businesses and families need access to broadband so we can compete around the globe,” said Congresswoman Stefanik. “This important legislation would provide greater resources to build this infrastructure in the North Country and in rural areas across our nation. I am pleased to join Congressman Pocan to introduce this bipartisan legislation in the House, and I urge my colleagues to support this critical 21st century infrastructure project.”

“Access to reliable, high-speed internet service is vital to communities across America especially to small businesses and students,” Rep. Mark Pocan said. “Yet, in rural areas, including parts of my district in Wisconsin, over a third of the population doesn’t have access to quality broadband. The Broadband Connections for Rural Opportunities Program (B-CROP) Act will increase resources to update and expand broadband infrastructure. I’m proud to work with Congresswoman Stefanik to help close the broadband gap so all communities can have a reliable connection.” 

Nationally, more than 55 million Americans lack access to advanced broadband speeds and an even greater number lack even basic connectivity. Broadband internet for rural communities serves as a crucial economic engine to generate widely shared prosperity. Therefore the push toward developing a 21st century infrastructure for America is quickly emerging as an initiative with bipartisan consensus.

This legislation helps connect rural communities by:

• Allowing for grants of up to 50 percent of a project’s cost, and up to 75 percent for remote, high-need areas, to be awarded in combination with the current loan funding available through USDA’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS).

• Combining grants with loans, the bill helps enhance the economic feasibility of projects serving rural and tribal areas.

• Providing highest priority to projects that serve areas that are currently unserved by high-speed broadband.

• This legislation also increases the authorized funding for RUS’s Broadband programs to $50 million per fiscal year.

• This proposal would provide adequate resources to private sector providers, including corporations, LLCs, cooperatives or mutual organizations, state or local government, and Indian tribes or tribal organizations to expand broadband access to unserved rural areas. Partnership projects would be given special attention including initiatives that leverage matching funds and that work with anchor institutions like health centers, colleges, universities, and other educational entities, and libraries.

Click here for text of this legislation.