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House Bill Would Expand Rural Broadband Access

Nearly 40 percent of rural America lacks broadband internet access. Arizona Democratic Congressman Tom O’Halleran is now part of an effort to expand connectivity. Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports.

The New Deal Rural Broadband Act would authorize $20 billion in federal funds for infrastructure. It would also establish an office to manage internet access programs nationwide and streamline investment.

Congressman O’Halleran says high-speed web access is critical for public safety, education and economic development.

"We need to make sure we have the best broadband available. And there’s no reason in America today that people in rural Arizona and our Native American reservations do not have the ability to connect to it," O'Halleran says.

The bill would also create the Tribal Broadband Assistance Program designed to support Native communities develop high-speed internet projects. According to the Federal Communications Commission, more than two-thirds of rural tribal lands lack high-speed access, affecting 1.3 million people.

The bill will go before three committees before possible consideration by the full House. 

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom as executive producer in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Public Media Journalists Association Award winner, and a frequent contributor to NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and national newscast.
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