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Podcast: Cuellar: Getting broadband to rural areas is now one of my top issues

MISSION, Texas – U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar says Congress is pumping an additional $7 billion into broadband connectivity.

The Laredo Democrat welcomed the appropriation, arguing that the funding is particularly needed along the U.S.-Mexico border and in rural areas. He said improving internet access will be one of his top issues for 2021.

“We added about $7 billion for broadband connectivity,” Cuellar said. “I think what we have seen with our kids at home and students online… we are finding that there are certain areas that don’t have broadband. What we want to do is make sure that we keep building the infrastructure for broadband, especially in the rural areas.”

Cuellar made his comments during a webinar he hosted to discuss the $1.4 trillion omnibus appropriations bill and the $900 billion coronavirus relief bill that Congress has just passed.

He said funding to improve broadband services is coming via the relief package and the appropriations package. 

“We are working now to push that in the Valley. In fact, tomorrow I have a phone call with a company that is doing some of that broadband in the area, down there in the Valley,” Cuellar said.

“The money is there and hopefully we will get that because we have seen under the pandemic some deficiencies, deficiencies in broadband and WiFi, computers for some families.”

Cuellar said he has heard from teachers that many families have two or three kids at home with only one computer between them.

“We are trying to address that, with monies going to the schools so they can buy the equipment, the computers. WiFi that is being used by school districts, so they can set up WiFi hotspots.”

Cuellar said he has also spoken to some housing authorities that also want to provide broadband services. 

“For example, in the Valley, they would like to use some of that money also for WiFi for some of those residents in Section 8 housing. And, of course, just in general the border area and the rural areas have deficiencies in broadband and that is why we are adding billions of dollars to do this.”

Cuellar added: “If people ask me what is one of my goals for this next year, broadband is going to be one of them. That is why I have set up this phone call for tomorrow for some of the projects along the rural areas.”

Article and podcast were originally published on December 27, 2020.