Butterfield joins rural broadband task force

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-Wilson, has joined the newly formed House Task Force on Rural Broadband, Communications Director Nicole Julius announced in a Monday news release.

The task force is working to close the connectivity gap between metropolitan and rural areas and has set a goal to provide all Americans with high-speed internet access by 2025. It’s led by House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the House’s third-ranking Democrat.

“Though high-speed internet has propelled the 21st-century economy forward, it hasn’t taken every American along with it. Across our country, 24 million people lack access to high-speed internet, and millions of low-income families simply can’t afford it,” Butterfield said in the release. “I am proud to join this Task Force on Rural Broadband to give this matter the attention it deserves. It is imperative that we use our efforts to ensure that underserved communities in North Carolina and across the country have universal access to reliable and affordable broadband. As Democrats in the House act to improve our nation’s infrastructure, we must now work together to address the digital divide and achieve our goal of a fully connected rural America.”

The Federal Communications Commission reports that 25 million rural Americans lack high-speed internet access despite more than $60 billion in public resources invested in rural broadband expansion, Butterfield’s office said.

The task force’s top priorities include ensuring that federal funding for rural broadband is spent effectively, passing laws to provide affordable universal access by 2025 and positioning the U.S. to lead the world in universal broadband deployment.

“I’m pleased that Congressman Butterfield is joining the House Task Force on Rural Broadband to ensure that all Americans can compete in the 21st century economy,” Clyburn said. “High-speed internet is an essential service in America today — yet too many of our fellow citizens in rural communities are being left behind. It’s unacceptable in 2019 that many rural communities have limited to no access to the internet. If rural America is to thrive in the 21st century information economy, it must have affordable and accessible internet service to every community.”