Capito, Manchin introduce bill to support broadband expansion projects

Bill helps communities use EDA dollars for broadband

WASHINGTON, D.C.– U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) today introduced the Eliminating Barriers to Rural Internet Development Grant Eligibility (E-BRIDGE) Actwhich would remove obstacles for broadband projects to receive Economic Development Administration (EDA) grants. Specifically, the legislation ensures that local communities can partner with the private sector and gives communities more flexibility in complying with their funding match requirements.

“Coronavirus has underlined how critical broadband infrastructure is—whether you’re working from home, finishing school assignments, or in need of a telehealth appointment,” Senator Capito said. “Since my first days in the Senate, I’ve made sure West Virginia is getting our fair share of EDA dollars, but there’s still red tape that can prevent communities from accessing these resources to advance broadband deployment. The E-BRIDGE Act works to correct that, and it will compliment my Capito Connect initiative to help the most rural communities in West Virginia achieve the connectivity they need.”

“Access to reliable broadband is crucial in the 21st century and due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many West Virginians are adjusting to staying at home and working from home. This puts a spotlight on the need to expand broadband access across rural states like West Virginia because we all know that broadband access is virtually nonexistent in many areas of our state,” said Senator Manchin. “Today Senator Capito and I introduced the Eliminating Barriers to Rural Internet Development Grant Eligibility (E-BRIDGE) Act which will remove a number of regulatory hurdles that currently prevent EDA from engaging in broadband development more broadly. As a Member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I strongly support the EDA which provides critical assistance to coal communities and rural areas like West Virginia. Along with their current work, the EDA wants to expand to assisting communities with broadband access in West Virginia, and I’ve heard from many West Virginians who would welcome the EDA involvement. The E-BRIDGE Actwould help them do just that. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass the E-BRIDGE Act and send it to the President’s desk.”

Specifically, the bill would:

  • Eliminate barriers to investments in broadband in distressed communities, making them eligible for EDA grants.
  • Clarify that eligible recipients may include public-private partnerships and consortiums to leverage private sector expertise in project development.
  • Provide flexibility in the procurement process to account for limited availability of broadband services in distressed communities.
  • Clarify that funds can be combined with other federal resources.
  • Provide flexibility on accounting for in-kind methods to meet non-federal cost share.

Click here to view the bill text.

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