Durbin Introduces the Connected Nation Act to Improve Internet Access

In a sign that lawmakers are starting to develop national policies to support the buildout of affordable, high-speed internet access, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) is introducing the Connected Nation Act of 2007.

Sen. Durbin's bill, S.1190, would create a matching grant program to help fund state and local Internet programs. With a special focus on rural areas, these grants would assist in mapping and increasing Internet access.

The bill is modeled on state programs like ConnectKentucky, the public-private partnership working to bring Kentucky's telecommunications system up to date. In S 1190, the grants, administered by the Department of Commerce, would consist of 80% federal funds and 20% state funds.

In his announcement of S 1190, Durbin noted that rural residents are only half as likely to have high-speed access as urban residents. He pointed out the importance of high-speed Internet connections to the economies of rural regions.

"We need to close the digital divide, ensuring that rural Americans are not left behind in the 21st Century's digital economy," Durbin noted. "Whether it is through telephone wire, cable, fiber, satellite, wireless or any other medium, we need every existing and future broadband service provider to step up to the national challenge."

We've already noted Sen. Durbin’s interest in this issue. The Senator held a conference in March to examine the challenges of high-speed Internet access, and he's followed through on his promise to introduce a bill.  It's a positive development to see our leaders exploring solutions to support wider Internet deployment.

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