March 01, 2020
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Office of U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) released the February edition of Senator King’s monthly Inside Maine podcast. This month’s show highlights the opportunities presented by the expansion of rural broadband across Maine, as well as emerging bipartisan solutions Senator King is leading to address this important challenge. In the first segment, Senator King is joined by Senator John Boozman (R-Ark.), who co-chairs the bipartisan Senate Broadband Caucus with Senator King, to discuss commonsense, bipartisan steps Congress can take to improve broadband access and infrastructure. In the second segment, Jessica Rosenworcel, Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), joins Senator King to share her thoughts on pragmatic steps that can be taken at the federal level to close the digital divide in rural America.
“Affordable access to high-speed broadband is essential to competing in a 21st century economy – but as connections lag behind in our rural communities, too many Americans are missing out,” said Senator King. “This isn’t a partisan issue – this is an area where Congress can and should work on a bipartisan basis, with partners like the FCC, to help make sure every American has the opportunities afforded by the internet. Senator Boozman and Commissioner Rosenworcel are two leaders in this space, and it was a pleasure to talk about the different ways we can work together to close the digital divide and help rural Americans succeed.”
As a co-chair of the Senate Broadband Caucus, Senator King has been a strong advocate for improving access to broadband in rural areas and the need to increase funding for stand-alone broadband infrastructure. Earlier this week, he joined a bipartisan group of senators in urging the USDA to adjust requirements of its ReConnect program, which currently blocks rural communities across 19 states from accessing federal funding intended to support rural broadband deployment. In December, he lauded the Senate’s passage of the Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability (DATA) Act, a bipartisan bill that he co-sponsored to improve broadband data maps. Earlier that month, Senator King pushed for funding to prioritize sustainable rural broadband networks as the FCC considers new rules to govern the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) program.
Digital connectivity in rural regions is a key priority of Senator King’s economic agenda to help modernize and grow Maine’s rural economy for the 21st century, support innovation and create jobs. In May 2019, Senators King and Shelly Moore Capito (R-W.Va) reintroduced legislation to measure the economic impact of broadband so state and federal policymakers can understand the return they will receive on any investments in digital infrastructure. The legislation had previously passed the Senate in December, but was not taken up by the House. In April 2019, Senator King joined his colleagues to introduce legislation to promote “digital equity” so Americans of all background can have equal access to the opportunities created by the internet. In September 2018, Senator King wrote a letter to the USDA seeking specific provisions in the ReConnect broadband pilot program, including acquiring up-to-date broadband mapping data. USDA incorporated these provisions in its regulations for the program that it issued in December 2018. In August 2017, he hosted a listening tour with FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel – his guest in this month’s podcast – to discuss the importance of rural broadband for rural education, healthcare, and economic growth. Senators King and Capito also successfully advanced bipartisan federal legislation in 2015 to support innovative strategies to connect rural students to the internet outside of the classroom, and wrote a letter to then-Education Secretary John King in April 2016 urging that he implement the changes.
The “Inside Maine Podcast with Senator Angus King” is a 30-minute program that aims to help keep Maine people informed about issues of the day, how they affect life in the state, and how they factor into Senator King’s work as an independent in the U.S. Senate. Senator King’s podcast builds on his existing radio show that airs on Newsradio WGAN in Portland, Maine between 10 and 11 a.m. on almost every last Saturday of the month. The link to the February podcast can be found HERE.