RCRC’s 2018 Annual Meeting will be held September 19-21 at the Napa Valley Marriott Hotel & Spa in Napa County. This year’s program will feature experts discussing a wide range of topics of interest to rural counties, including school safety, the changing face of media, the current political landscape, and more. Read More…
The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved HR 3994, the Access Broadband Act this week. The bill, introduced by Representatives Paul Tonko (D-New York) and Leonard Lance (R-New Jersey), would establish the Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth (OICG) within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).
OICG would streamline the federal funding application process for projects that expand broadband access. The office would consult with agencies offering federal broadband support programs to help streamline applications across the federal government. The goal of the office would be to standardize the application process for broadband programs such as the Rural Broadband Access Loans and Loan Guarantees program at the Rural Utilities Service. To the greatest extent possible, the office would create a single application for these broadband funding programs. If the bill is signed into law, OICG would track rural broadband programs that receive federal funding, the economic impact of broadband expansion, and progress towards closing the digital divide.
Next week, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology will hold a hearing entitled “Realizing the Benefits of Rural Broadband: Challenges and Solutions.” Subcommittee Chair Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee) will further examine the financial and regulatory barriers to rural broadband deployment, and any possible legislative solutions.
This week, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee considered a bill that would address the $12 billion backlog in park maintenance. The proposal, backed by Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio), would create a trust fund using revenue from energy production on federal land.
Money from the trust fund would be directed towards the newly created National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund. The fund could tap up to $1.3 billion per year for park restoration and maintenance projects. This would create a consistent source of funding for National Park maintenance that is not subjected to the political turmoil of the annual federal budgeting process.
Next week, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing entitled “The Endangered Species Act (ESA) Amendments of 2018.” The Committee will debate Chair John Barrasso’s (R-Wyoming) proposal to expand the role of state and local governments in the enforcement of ESA protections for endangered species.
Chair Barrasso released a discussion draft last week which was met with a mix of praise and contempt. The bill is celebrated by rural state and local governments and businesses for softening the role of the federal government in ESA enforcement issues. Environmentalists, however, fear the bill would severely cripple ESA if signed into law. Chair Barrasso will have an opportunity to address these concerns during the hearing on Tuesday, July 17, 2018.