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Lawmakers Hope to Close ‘Digital Divide’ with Rural Broadband Act

Trudy Balcom/The Independent

More than half of rural Americans and nearly two-thirds of those on tribal lands lack high-speed internet access. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports, some members of Congress want to close that so-called digital divide. 

The Rural Broadband Expansion Act would authorize $100 million per year in grants for equipment and capacity upgrades at schools, public safety agencies and healthcare providers. It would also allow for web access in some homes and businesses. The funding, if approved, would be authorized annually through 2023.

One of the sponsors is Arizona Democrat Tom O’Halleran. He says expanding high-speed broadband on rural and tribal lands will boost economies and enhance education.

According to the most recent data from the Federal Communications Commission, 94 percent of Apache County 90 percent of Navajo County and three-quarters of Coconino lack high-speed access. 

Ryan Heinsius joined the KNAU newsroom as executive producer in 2013 and was named news director and managing editor in 2024. As a reporter, he has covered 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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