02.13.18

Peters Floor Remarks Calling for Rural Broadband Investment

Peters: “Being connected to high-speed broadband in the 21st century is as critical to the prosperity of rural communities as being connected to running water in the 20th century.”

Peters: “The Administration’s infrastructure proposal utterly fails to recognize the urgency for robust connectivity nationwide, especially for communities caught on the wrong side of the digital divide.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI), spoke on the Senate floor today calling on the Trump Administration to make rural broadband investment a priority, following the release of the President’s infrastructure plan that fails to provide any dedicated funding for rural broadband. Below is video and text of his remarks as prepared for delivery:

Watch the Video 

“A community built without access to drinking water would never be expected to grow and thrive. Parents wouldn’t move their children to a home where they don’t have running water for bathing and drinking. Restaurants wouldn’t be able to cook and keep their kitchen clean. Manufacturers wouldn’t build new factories where they couldn’t access water for cooling and other processes. Simply put, a community without access to water would fail.

“Being connected to high-speed broadband in the 21st century is as critical to the prosperity of rural communities as being connected to running water in the 20th century.

“I have seen this first-hand. While meeting with Michiganders in Barry County, we discussed recent economic development. Part of the county is seeing new construction of homes, the creation of new small businesses, and an influx of young families.

“The other part of the county is stagnant. You can guess which part of the county is set up for broadband, and which isn’t. My constituents from Barry County know that high-speed internet is the key to economic growth, educational opportunity and access to limitless services, information, and ideas.

“Our rural communities and our nation as a whole, are at a crossroads. We have an opportunity to level the playing field for all Americans by making the right investments, right now, in rural communities across our nation. These towns are not connected to broadband by choice, they are not connected to broadband because it is expensive to deploy to remote geographic areas.

“Local city councils in rural areas struggle to fund broadband projects themselves, and they struggle to convince providers that it makes economic sense to invest in their communities, especially where populations are small or spread out.

“While deployment can be expensive, high speed broadband is not a luxury. It is critical infrastructure. High speed broadband is critical infrastructure the same way that the pipes that carry our water and the wires that carry our electricity are critical infrastructure.

“The federal government has a role to play in infrastructure when it comes to national deployment of life-changing, critical innovations.

“We have been here before. In the 20th century, the U.S. faced a parallel challenge with the deployment of electricity. It took strategic federal action to bring electricity to less populated rural areas. These commonsense investments raised our overall standard of living and spurred productivity in an agricultural sector at risk of falling drastically behind the growth of urban-based industries.

“If we can successfully electrify a nation, then we have no excuse not to connect it to the internet in the modern era. Rural electricity was the breakthrough of the 20th century. Universal high-speed broadband will be the breakthrough of the 21st century, provided we invest in it.

“Any serious national infrastructure package needs real federal investment in rural broadband.

“Unfortunately, the Administration’s infrastructure proposal utterly fails to recognize the urgency for robust connectivity nationwide, especially for communities caught on the wrong side of the digital divide. The Administration’s plan fails to provide any dedicated funding for rural broadband.

“Strategic federal investments are needed to fill in the gaps for states and local communities struggling to keep up with the internet demands of today, let alone getting ahead of the connectivity demands of tomorrow. This Administration’s infrastructure proposal would only create more gaps.

“Although the Administration is advertising their infrastructure proposal as a $1.7 trillion dollar plan, $1.5 trillion of it would fall on the backs of cash-strapped state and local governments. If this is all they are proposing, this is a lost opportunity. If this is all they are proposing, this Administration is setting up our communities for failure.

“And what are they actually proposing? Toll roads and hiking state and local taxes. And they aren’t even being subtle, it’s in black in white.

“The Administration’s plan says, and I quote, “providing States flexibility to toll existing Interstates would generate additional revenues”. Mr. President, Michiganders did not send me to the United States Senate because they want toll roads and higher taxes.

“As a candidate, President Trump promised real federal investment in communities across our great nation. Now, his administration is offering up state and local taxes and tolls to pay for roads, bridges, and waterways, and zero dedicated dollars for broadband expansion.

“As I said earlier, any serious national infrastructure plan needs real federal investment in rural broadband.

“Universal broadband means rural prosperity, continued economic growth and international competitiveness. But we must invest in this goal in order to reach it.

“I urge my colleagues to join me in making real investments in rural high-speed broadband a top priority in any infrastructure legislation. All of our friends, family members, and neighbors in rural communities across our great nation are counting on us.”