Closing the “digital divide” has long been a key initiative of RCRC as many rural communities regularly contend with unreliable or non-existent broadband access. In recent months, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has further revealed the depth of the disparities when, in the words of RCRC Chief Economic Development Officer, Barbara Hayes, “the digital divide became the digital chasm”. Signaling that lawmakers may be increasingly attuned to the urgency of the situation, during a Tuesday reconfirmation hearing for Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner Mike O’Rielly, Senate Commerce Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi) revealed he is focused on how to speed up the disbursement of rural broadband subsidies from the FCC’s October Rural Digital Opportunity Fund auction of $16 billion. Although he previously had expressed interest in speeding up when that auction begins, Senator Wicker says he has turned his attention to how to fast-track getting the broadband subsidy money out the door to telecom providers after the first phase of that auction happens. “I may have a proposal,” Wicker told Commissioner O’Rielly. “Once phase 1 auction occurs, I think we can help you with some extra funds and some incentive from the administration, on a bipartisan basis, to move this ahead.”