Heinrich, Luján, Welch Lead Bipartisan Letter Calling on Department of Commerce and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to Streamline Broadband Funding for Rural Communities
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Chair of the Subcommittee on Communications, Media, and Broadband, and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) led 11 of their colleagues in calling on the Department of Commerce and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to expand the accessibility of the Broadband, Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program to underserved communities in New Mexico and across the country.
The letter urges Secretary of Commerce Raimondo and Assistant Secretary of Commerce Davidson to consider alternatives to the BEAD program’s Letter of Credit (LOC) requirement, which can prevent Internet Service Providers best positioned to connect unserved and underserved Americans from participating in the BEAD program.
“This requirement presents a challenge for ISPs and, in particular, many new and small ISPs that are unlikely to have the acceptable forms of collateral needed to support the LOC. Additionally, these capital barriers could exclude many entities that the program aims to support, such as small and community-centered ISPs, minority-and-women-owned ISPs, nonprofit organizations, and municipalities. Indeed, the requirement could be a barrier to entry for many public broadband entities attempting to access the BEAD program, due to laws preventing municipalities from obtaining a LOC,” the letter read.
“Pursuing alternatives to the LOC requirement would allow all ISPs, including small- and community-centered providers, minority- and women-owned ISPs, nonprofits, and municipalities, to participate in the BEAD program,” wrote the Senators.
Established in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the BEAD Program is the largest federal broadband investment in United States history, providing $42.45 billion to expand high-speed internet access by funding planning, infrastructure deployment, and adoption programs across the country. Earlier this year, Heinrich and Luján celebrated the Biden-Harris Administration’s announcement that New Mexico will receive $675 million to deploy broadband throughout the state as part of the program.
In addition to Heinrich and Luján, the letter is signed by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Ted Budd (R-N.C.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).
Read and download the full text of the letter here.