Since coming to Congress I’ve discovered that there is a “National Week” for just about every important topic. In May alone we’ve recognized Small Business, Nurses, Police, and Teacher Appreciation Weeks. These are all important individuals and causes, so it’s only fitting we acknowledge them.
Most recently we celebrated Infrastructure Week, which brought several South Dakota groups to the Capitol. I sat down with general contractors, communications providers, and tower erectors. Each of these groups had a different focus related to our nation’s infrastructure — increasing rural broadband deployment and repairing damaged roads are central to the infrastructure improvement mission.
Before being elected to Congress, I worked in the private sector to bring broadband to unserved rural communities. The internet continues to change our world and rural America needs high-speed, reliable broadband to stay competitive and connected with the world. As a member of the bipartisan House Rural Broadband Caucus, I’ve worked with my colleagues across the aisle on this important issue. Rural broadband carriers provide thousands of jobs to smaller communities and contributes billions to the U.S. economy.
I’m aware that talking about roads, bridges, and expanding our nation’s telecommunications infrastructure isn’t exactly exciting, but it’s so important. The South Dakota delegation understands this as well, which is why Senator Thune, Senator Rounds, and I urged the Federal Communication Commission to improve its process in identifying underserved areas of the country in need of high-speed internet. Governor Noem has also made expanding broadband access a top priority at the state level. In fact, Governor Noem recently announced a $5 million commitment to increase rural broadband deployment in South Dakota. In a technology driven world, access to broadband is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity. South Dakota’s leadership understands this, and we’re not sitting idle.
In the 1930’s, America prioritized rural electrification, and the level of commitment we showed back then should apply to internet access today. In today’s competitive economy we must ensure that there is access from Murdo to Groton. According to a study, South Dakota is ranked 34th in the nation for access to broadband. We have a number of rural providers working hard to deploy better broadband, and we need to do what we can in D.C. to make their efforts even more successful.