Graves’ E-BRIDGE Act passes House, heads to Senate

The U.S. House of Representatives on Nov. 4 voted 410-16 to approve U.S. Rep. Sam Graves’ (R-MO) Eliminating Barriers to Rural Internet Development Grant Eligibility (E-BRIDGE) Act, which now heads to the U.S. Senate for consideration.  

“The E-BRIDGE Act cuts through red tape to enable communities to use existing federal funds to complete last mile internet infrastructure projects. It doesn’t create any new federal programs,” said Rep. Graves, ranking member of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “It just updates the Economic Development Act guidelines to allow communities to use those funds for the most powerful economic development tool we have — building internet infrastructure. 

“This is big news for Missourians who still lack access to reliable high-speed internet and I look forward to the Senate taking up and passing this common-sense legislation,” Rep. Graves said.

The congressman sponsored H.R. 3193 in May with lead original cosponsor U.S. Rep. Michael Guest (R-MS) to authorize the U.S. Commerce Department to award economic development grants for public-private partnerships and certain consortiums to carry out specified broadband projects, according to the congressional record bill summary. 

The identical bill, the bipartisan S. 1695, was also introduced in May by U.S. Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Joe Manchin, III (D-WV).

The measure would ensure that local communities can partner with the private sector in carrying out broadband projects and would provide communities with more flexibility in complying with their funding match requirements, according to a bill summary provided by Rep. Graves’ staff.

Specifically, the E-BRIDGE Act would eliminate barriers to investments in broadband in distressed communities and make them eligible for Economic Development Act (EDA) grants; clarify that eligible recipients may include public-private partnerships and consortiums to leverage private-sector expertise in project development; and provide flexibility in the procurement process, among other provisions, the summary says.