Capito unveils bipartisan E-BRIDGE Act to spur national broadband initiative

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) on May 7 introduced a bipartisan bill that would provide for a high-speed broadband deployment initiative.

Sen. Capito sponsored the Eliminating Barriers to Rural Internet Development Grant Eligibility (E-BRIDGE) Act, S. 3648, with lead original cosponsor U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) to remove obstacles for broadband projects to receive Economic Development Administration (EDA) grants, according to a bill summary provided by Sen. Capito’s office.

“Since my first days in the Senate, I’ve made sure West Virginia is getting our fair share of EDA dollars, but there’s still red tape that can prevent communities from accessing these resources to advance broadband deployment,” Sen. Capito said. “The E-BRIDGE Act works to correct that, and it will complement my Capito Connect initiative to help the most rural communities in West Virginia achieve the connectivity they need.”

Specifically, the bill would clarify that eligible recipients may include public-private partnerships and consortiums to leverage private sector expertise in project development. The legislation also would provide flexibility in the procurement process to account for limited availability of broadband services in distressed communities and clarify that funds can be combined with other federal resources, according to the bill summary.

“Access to reliable broadband is crucial in the 21st century and due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many West Virginians are adjusting to staying at home and working from home,” added Sen. Manchin. “This puts a spotlight on the need to expand broadband access across rural states like West Virginia because we all know that broadband access is virtually nonexistent in many areas of our state.”

The measure has been referred for consideration to the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.