Press Release

Welch Leads Bipartisan Letter Calling on Department of Commerce and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to Streamline Broadband Funding for Rural America

Oct 24, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On October 24, Senator Peter Welch (D-VT) led 13 of his Senate colleagues, including Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Ted Budd (R-NC), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Gary Peters (D-MI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), and Roger Wicker (R-MS) 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 unconnected regions across the country. The letter urges Secretary of Commerce Raimondo and Assistant Secretary of Commerce Davidson to consider alternatives to the BEAD program’s irrevocable standby 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 Investment and Jobs Act, 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, Sen. Welch celebrated the Biden-Harris Administration’s announcement that Vermont will receive nearly $230 million to deploy broadband throughout the state as part of the program. 

As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, Senator Welch helps oversee the implementation of BEAD funding. In this role, he has pressed Administration officials on improving the accuracy of federal broadband maps and the timely release of federal broadband funding to ensure rural communities throughout Vermont can be connected to the modern, digital economy. 

Read and download the full text of the letter here