Greg Walden: We need to do more to connect rural Oregon
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Continuing his efforts to improve broadband expansion across America, Representative Greg Walden (R-Hood River) said there is much more that needs to be done to connect rural Oregon.
“We need to build out more broadband to more places in America. Period. Hard stop. We should all be for that. Last Congress we worked together in a bipartisan way to get that done and there’s more work to be done,” said Walden at an Energy and Commerce Committee hearing Wednesday.
Walden highlighted a discussion at his recent town hall meeting in Wheeler County, where Walden said that the issue of broadband connectivity was front and center.
“I’ve done 20 town halls this year, more than any other member in the House. One of them was out in Spray, Oregon, which has a population of 150,” said Walden. “They use a booster to keep the signal going while you’re in town, which is one block, but the educators said that when their students get away from that they don’t have connection when they go home. This county has one person for every nine miles of power line, so this is remote, and we need to look at alternative platforms that work to get into these areas.”
Under Walden’s leadership, Congress passed and President Trump signed into law the RAY BAUM’S Act, which reauthorized the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for the first time in more than two decades and provides new tools to support broadband expansion. This measure aims to speed deployment of next generation broadband across the country, which is particularly important for rural communities in Oregon.
During the hearing, Walden also highlighted new legislation that he proposed to ensure that states are using money collected for 911 services solely to assist emergency response. Walden stressed that, as the country recognizes Peace Officers Memorial Day, this is especially important.
“As we honor today police officers for Peace Officers Memorial Day and the 106 officers who lost their lives last year, we have an issue with the diversion of 911 fees,” said Walden. “In one state the diversion rate was as high as 90 percent. This ought to be mail fraud.”
Walden raised concerns about 911 fee diversion, which is when states divert fees paid by consumers to support essential public safety services to pay for unrelated services. Walden’s proposal would incentivize states to properly use these funds.
Walden said that for states to access opportunities in his proposal, they would need to stop this harmful diversion.
“States and localities would simply need to comply with a very common sense policy that bipartisan bills have already called for, which is to put a stop to 911 diversion,” said Walden. “Stop diverting your 911 money and defrauding your own customers.”