Release of Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND).
Re: introduction of S 2307 IS, the Rural Broadband Enhancement Act.
Date: March 28, 2000.
Source: Office of Sen. Dorgan.

March 28, 2000

CONTACT: Barry E. Piatt
or Dana McCallum
PHONE: 202-224-2551


(WASHINGTON, D.C.) — U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) introduced legislation Tuesday to ensure that rural America is not left behind by the revolution taking place in the telecommunications industry. Dorgan said his plan—the Rural Broadband Enhancement Act (RBEA)—would spur delivery of Internet broadband services to rural areas allowing them to participate fully in the emerging digital economy reshaping American commerce.

Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) joined Dorgan as an original co-sponsor of the legislation which Dorgan introduced at a meeting of the Senate’s Commerce Communications Subcommittee today.

Dorgan said his plan is modeled on the Rural Electrification Act that delivered electricity to rural America in the 1930's when many electric companies wanted to by-pass rural areas and farms and connect to easy to serve urban population centers. Dorgan’s plan would make available $3 billion for a revolving loan fund, over five years, which would provide capital for low interest loans to finance construction of the needed broadband infrastructure. Any company building such infrastructure for rural areas would be eligible for the loans, which would be repayable over 30 years at 2 percent interest. The loans would be made by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Services, who were also responsible for bringing telephones to rural America.

"No region of the country should be left behind in telecommunications technology," Dorgan said. "We had this debate about electricity and about telephone service when they were new, and I think the universal need and the universal requirement that we build out the infrastructure for both in every part of our country is well understood and well recognized."

The legislation is needed, Dorgan said, because broadband build out to rural parts of the country "is not going to happen on its own."

"Once again, companies are rushing to serve the parts of our country with a high population density, but are not rushing to serve more rural areas where the costs are higher per customer because of the distances involved. If we don’t change that, rural Americans will not have the same economic opportunity as those who live in the cities. This is a very important issue. If we don’t have the build out of information services to rural areas, they will be left behind. That means more economic opportunity for crowded cities and less economic opportunity for rural areas. That just doesn’t make much sense."