FARMFEST: Sen Smith Is a Strong Advocate for Rural Broadband

For Immediate Release:
August 4, 2020

Senator Tina Smith has worked tirelessly to expand broadband access in Minnesota. Her work on broadband access has been a long-time priority while in public office, and she has secured millions in grants while serving in the Senate to close the digital divide.

As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Sen. Smith has championed key bipartisan legislation to expand broadband in Tribal, low-income and rural areas and small towns, which was included in the 2018 Farm Bill and signed into law. Her bill to reauthorize the Community Connect Grant Program, a program within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that funds broadband deployment across Greater Minnesota, was also included in the 2018 Farm Bill and signed into law.

When Sen. Smith heard about an unintended consequence in the GOP tax law that put rural cooperatives at risk of losing their tax-exempt status, she went to work across party lines with Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio. Through Sens. Smith and Portman’s measure, rural co-ops are able to receive government grants to expand broadband or recover from a disaster without losing their tax-exempt status. Their legislation was signed into law by President Trump in December of last year.

Amid a global pandemic, Sen. Smith pushed for the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to include funding to expand rural broadband for telehealth and distance learning. She understands that the COVID-19 pandemic has not been the great equalizer, and has only contributed to the stark disparity of the digital divide, and she won’t stop fighting to secure affordable and reliable broadband for rural communities.


December 2017: Vice: Smith “Has A Track Record Of Proven, Popular Efforts To Getting Broadband Where It’s Needed Fast And Efficiently.” “In the Senate, Smith will have a much broader opportunity to tackle digital divide issues across the county (Minnesota is an internet oasis compared to states like Mississippi). She has a track record of proven, popular efforts to getting broadband where it’s needed fast and efficiently. With Franken no longer in his seat, it’s key to have a digital divide advocate filling his shoes.” [Vice, 12/18/17]

  • Vice: “Smith Is A Longtime Rural Broadband Advocate Who Has Championed Programs In Minnesota To Close The Digital Divide.” [Vice, 12/18/17]

Duluth News-Tribune: Smith’s Bill To Deploy Broadband To Rural And Tribal Communities Through The Community Connect Grant Program Was Included In The Farm Bill And Signed Into Law. “Congress is approaching the end of this year’s session and the farm bill is still being discussed, but Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., is confident it will be passed.  ‘Getting a final farm bill passed before the end of the year is so important. Minnesota farmers need the certainty this bill is going to provide. I’m optimistic we’re going to get that done,’ Smith said.  One feature of the bill is a Community Connect Program that would help spread broadband access to rural and tribal communities, according to Smith.  ‘It will help to get funding to rural parts of the country to expand broadband. It’s a really important step and we need to do a lot more to expand broadband,’ Smith said.” [Duluth News-Tribune, 12/6/18; S. 2654, 4/12/18; H.R. 2, 12/20/18]

April 2019: Brainerd Dispatch: “Klobuchar, Smith Back Bill To Extend Internet Access For Poorer, Rural Areas.” [Brainerd Dispatch, 4/17/19]

March 2020: The Stimulus Included $100 Million To Further Boost Rural Broadband. “The deal struck between Congress and the Trump administration would inject roughly $2 trillion throughout the U.S. economy. […] USDA’s Rural Development programs would receive $25 million for distance learning and telemedicine programs. Another $100 million would also go to further boost rural broadband as well.” [Ag Info, 3/26/20]

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