May 27, 2021

Wyden Introduces Bill to Help Improve Broadband Coverage for Small Ports

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today introduced a bill to help small ports in Oregon and nationwide get federal loans that would improve their broadband coverage, helping them to grow economically and ensuring they have real-time access to weather updates.

Wyden’s Broadband Internet for Small Ports Act would add small ports to the priority list for applications to the Agriculture Department’s Rural Utility Service broadband access loan program, which funds construction and improvement of internet infrastructure for eligible rural areas. U.S. Rep. Stacey Plaskett, D-V.I., will introduce companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Broadband is essential infrastructure for every community, and Oregon's small ports are no exception. The small businesses operating out of the ports need dependable broadband to do their work, especially our state's commercial fishing industry which relies on internet access to get the satellite photos and weather maps they need to operate safely,” Wyden said. “Reliable broadband is a must for the Oregonians employed at small ports as well as for the visitors who generate jobs in the recreation and tourism economies of ports’ coastal and inland communities.”

This bill is part of Wyden’s work to improve rural broadband access in Oregon and nationwide. Most recently, he helped secure billions of dollars to improve broadband access for families during the pandemic, including over $20 million paid out across Oregon, through COVID-19 relief packages passed by Congress. Wyden continues to press for improved broadband connections for underserved communities, urging the U.S. Department of Treasury this week to make more communities eligible for state and local broadband grants. In March, Wyden also introduced comprehensive broadband infrastructure legislation that would expand access to affordable high-speed internet for all Americans.

Full text of the bill can be found here.

John Burns, Chief Executive Office of the Port of Coos Bay and President of the Oregon Public Ports Association (OPPA): “Senator Wyden has long recognized that broadband is critical infrastructure – it is vital to commerce and economic vitality, and is an absolute must for improving quality of life. Oregon’s ports serve as the ‘anchor business’ and key driver of economic activity in many rural Oregon communities, but that job is made harder when the businesses we support don’t have the broadband access they need. That’s why we are so appreciative of Senator Wyden’s leadership on this issue and applaud him for introducing the Broadband Internet for Small Ports Act.”

Michele Bradley, General Manager of the Port of Tillamook Bay: “Senator Wyden continues to look out for Oregon’s rural communities with his Broadband Internet for Small Ports Act. In recognizing Oregon’s public ports in this legislation, even small and inland ports like the Port of Tillamook Bay, may pursue broadband services on behalf of the diverse set of businesses located at the Port and the rural communities those businesses serve, from high tech businesses to large food producers. We appreciate Senator Wyden’s thoughtful and responsive leadership – Oregon port districts are proud to work with the Senator on this important issue.” 

Andrea Klaas, Executive Director of the Port of The Dalles and Chairperson of Business Oregon’s Infrastructure Finance Authority Board: “The global pandemic has placed new emphasis on broadband services, furthering delivery of essential business, healthcare, education and other necessary aspects of daily life. Senator Wyden's Broadband Internet for Small Ports Act, gives priority to projects for small ports that serve unserved and underserved rural communities. Oregon's public ports are proud to play a role in removing barriers and being a part of infrastructure and equity strategies moving forward. Many thanks to Senator Wyden for this key measure, which will make competitive rural Oregon’s regional economies.”