Congressman Greg Walden

Representing the 2nd District of Oregon

Greg Walden discusses rural broadband expansion with FCC Chairman

July 25, 2018
Press Release

Greg Walden discusses rural broadband expansion with FCC Chairman

Click here or on the image above to view Walden’s remarks

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Representative Greg Walden (R-Hood River), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, today held a hearing with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai to examine solutions to expand broadband to underserved areas. During the hearing, Walden highlighted the positive impact broadband expansion can have on rural communities, which Chairman Pai experienced firsthand when Walden invited him to eastern Oregon in June.

“I want to thank you for coming out to my district last month,” said Walden to Chairman Pai. “We traveled around and saw a health clinic and what telehealth means. I want to thank the Commission for the decision to lift the cap on the rural health telemedicine piece. That made a huge and positive difference for our rural clinics when you added $171 million over the $400 million cap.  You heard it firsthand when you were out there meeting with the clinic. And I appreciated the discussion we had with the broadcasters and the small ISPs. I think you got a taste for how large the 7th largest Congressional district is, even though we never got out of one county.”

Walden invited Chairman Pai to eastern Oregon to discuss efforts to improve connectivity in rural communities, including making sure patients in remote areas have access to the best doctors through technology like telehealth. Chairman Pai told Walden today that the top goal of the FCC is connecting people with Internet access regardless of where they live.

“From the beginning of my tenure as head of the agency, I’ve made clear that my top priority would be to close the digital divide,” said Pai. “I take this issue personally, having grown up in a small town in rural Kansas. And in order to inform our efforts on how to connect unserved areas, I’ve travelled to 33 states and two U.S. territories and have logged nearly 9,000 road miles to learn about rural communities around the country. I’ve seen places that are using the Internet to open new doors of opportunity as well as towns that are being bypassed by the digital revolution.”

Walden continues to partner with Chairman Pai and the FCC to expand broadband infrastructure to rural communities in Oregon, which is a priority for Representative Walden. Walden led the effort to pass the RAY BAUM’S Act into law, which reauthorized the FCC and gave the agency additional tools to enhance broadband expansion.

Today Walden stressed the need to connect underserved communities across the country with broadband access, and asked Chairman Pai what actions the FCC was taking to achieve that goal.

“As you have heard from many members on both sides of the aisle, we need to do more as a country to connect each other with highspeed data and broadband connections,” said Walden. “What can you tell us, Chairman, about the work the FCC is doing today to close this digital divide?”

Chairman Pai highlighted steps the FCC is taking to ensure the benefits of broadband are accessible to people in rural communities like eastern Oregon.

“We are making major steps towards closing the digital divide,” said Chairman Pai. “And some of the initiatives that may appear smaller, but I can tell you that when I’m on the ground in places like Pendleton, Oregon, they’re not small. Telemedicine -- this is one of the things that the American people just understand, especially in rural communities where it is hard to attract a specialist. The only way that some of these folks in rural communities will get adequate health care is through telemedicine.

“You saw the response for yourself, as did I, at Mirasol Health Clinic in Oregon when they heard the news that we were proposing to increase by 43% the budget for the rural health care program. If you remember, they broke out into applause because they recognize that this is a lifeline, quite literally, for some of these communities.”

For more information on today’s hearing, including a background memo and archived webcast, please click here.