After Calls from Senator Bennet, USDA Raises Standards for High-Speed Broadband

Senator Bennet Has Urged the Biden Administration to Increase Federal Broadband Speeds for Grant Programs to Reflect Modern Uses

Washington, D.C. – Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet released the following statement welcoming an announcement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that its ReConnect Broadband program will now require all participants to provide high-speed connections with at least 100 megabits per second (Mbps) for both download and upload. The previous standards were 25 Mbps for download and 3 Mbps for upload. This change comes within months of advocacy from Senator Bennet, who has urged the Biden Administration to update the broadband program’s baseline speed requirements to reflect existing and anticipated uses, from two-way video conferencing to smart grids to artificial intelligence.

“For too long we’ve wasted limited funding building broadband networks that are outdated as soon as they’re complete,” said Bennet. “That's why I’ve urged Secretary Vilsack to dramatically raise broadband standards for USDA’s ReConnect Program to reflect what families, farmers, ranchers, and rural communities actually need in the 21st century. I’m grateful for his leadership in making this overdue change.”

In March, Senator Bennet led a bipartisan letter with his Senate colleagues urging the Biden administration to update the speeds and standards for high-speed broadband across federal agencies. After Senator Bennet’s advocacy, ReConnect announced up to $1.15 billion in new loans and grants to expand the availability of broadband in rural areas – all of which will follow the new high-speed standards championed by the Senator.

Senator Bennet has been a strong advocate for expanding affordable broadband access in rural Colorado. As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Bennet supported the creation of USDA’s ReConnect program and worked to increase its funding in 2018. ReConnect has since provided over $25 million in funding for broadband projects in rural Colorado. Senator Bennet also secured broadband funds in the Senate-passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), which will invest $65 billion in broadband infrastructure across the nation. The legislation’s historic broadband provisions include over $40 billion in block grants to states and $2 billion for tribal governments, mirroring the bipartisan BRIDGE Act introduced by Senators Bennet, Angus King (I-Maine), and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) earlier this year. During the pandemic, he consistently called for more funding and flexibility for the FCC’s E-Rate program to connect low-income students online and helped secure more than $7 billion to close the digital divide for students nationwide in the American Rescue Plan.