ANDERSON - With more Americans than ever relying on the internet, the U.S. House has passed legislation to increase access to broadband services.
The bipartisan legislation, authored by Rep. Susan Brooks, R-5th District and Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., would help expand broadband access in underserved areas and create a simpler process for small businesses and local economic developers to access federal broadband resources.
The proposed legislation establishes the Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
It directs the office to simplify access for small businesses and local communities, possibly including small business workshops and other support resources.
The legislation also streamlines the process for small businesses and local governments to apply for federal broadband assistance.
"To put it simply," Brooks said on the House floor, "people in every state of our country, including Indiana, need better access to the internet."
She said people in rural areas are concerned they will be left behind as the 21st century economy continues to become more reliant on technology.
"Today more and more schools require homework to be submitted electronically, tests are taken online, and class notes are posted on school websites," Brooks said. "When students can't access the internet, they have to travel to a library daily in order to keep up with their studies or they risk falling behind in class."
Indiana has committed to invest $100 million in supporting broadband access across the state for underserved areas, she said.
"This NextLevel connections program is exactly the kind of idea that the Access Broadband Act will help support," Brooks said. "By making federal resources easier to access, Indiana will be able to better support its own internet access efforts."
Tonko said reliable broadband internet access is an integral part of the American economy and modern way of life.
"Whether for students doing homework, job seekers training for a new career, doctors reading a medical scan or entrepreneurs starting a small business, we need to make sure nobody is being left behind," he said. "The House took an important step forward today by advancing this common-sense bill."
Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 640-4863.