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House unanimously passes Axne-sponsored legislation to increase access to rural broadband

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oday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the ACCESS Broadband Act, bipartisan legislation that would make it easier for rural communities to access federal resources to expand broadband. The bill, which Rep. Axne co-sponsored, streamlines the process for small businesses & local governments to apply for federal broadband assistance and grants and will improve coordination between the government and the private sector.
 
“In our rural communities, the Internet has immense potential to better support our entrepreneurs, improve the quality of education and provide every Iowan with 21st century skills needed for good-paying jobs. But too may communities are without the resources they need to integrate innovative technology. This legislation will make it easier for small businesses and rural towns to apply for federal assistance to build out broadband in order to build out their economy,”  said Rep. Axne, a small business owner and leader in government efficiency and reform.   
 
Currently, there are broadband programs offered by seven different federal departments or independent agencies, with more than 25 different programs that offer grants and loans. While large telecom companies have the resources to sort through the programs and apply without aid, the process is overly cumbersome and difficult to navigate for small businesses and rural communities.
 
The ACCESS Broadband Act would require the various agencies to streamline and synchronize their applications as much as possible with the goal of creating one application. Without a streamlined system, the burden falls on local leaders to wade through red tape to discover and access the available resources. As a result, many local communities and small businesses who would benefit from broadband funding and guidance are either not aware that this support exists or unable to apply.
 
Specifically, H.R. 1328: The ACCESS BROADBAND Act:
 
Establishes an Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which already has the necessary infrastructure, resources and staff to oversee and track broadband funding across agencies.
Directs this office to simplify access for small businesses and local communities, possibly including small business workshops and other support resources.
Streamlines process for small businesses & local governments to apply for federal broadband assistance, including moving toward a single application form for most federal broadband funding; improves coordination across government and the private sector.
 
 On January 17, the House passed the Axne-sponsored Grant Reporting Efficiency and Agreements Transparency (GREAT) Act of 2019, bipartisan legislation that would help Iowa communities, small businesses and farmers access funds for programs and projects to create jobs and spur economic development across the state.