This was a vote on an amendment by Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY) that would increase funding by $6 million for a high-speed broadband internet loan program. This amendment was offered to legislation providing annual funding for Agriculture Department programs.
Specifically, the underlying agriculture bill eliminated a program that provided loans for high-speed broadband internet to those living in areas where such internet access was scarce. Gibson’s amendment would provide $6 million for this program.
Gibson urged support for his amendment: “…Over 50 congressional districts across our country have at least 10 percent of their population without access to high-speed broadband. My district is one of these over-50 districts. Now, this is a significant impediment to job creation. We have farmers without access to the high-speed broadband. We have many small businesses in our districts, including bed and breakfasts which impact our tourism without that access. This amendment helps address this situation. Now, the underlying bill zeroes out the loan program for rural broadband. This is down from $22.3 million that we just closed out a few months ago for FY 11 [fiscal year 2011]…I think this is a mistake.”
Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) opposed this amendment, arguing the broadband loan program was unpopular and unnecessary: “ This program is not necessary. And in a time when we're talking about saving money, we do not need to increase this account. The process is burdensome. We get lots of complaints from people who have had applications pending for a long time and they can't get their questions answered, or they get approved but they can't get their money. Their eligibility is too broad. And in many areas, it competes with private sector broadband service.”
The House agreed to this amendment by a vote of 221-198. Voting “yea” were 131 Democrats—including a majority of progressives—and 90 Republicans. 146 Republicans and 52 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House agreed to an amendment that would increase funding by $6 million for a high-speed broadband internet loan program. At the time the House passed this amendment, it was unclear whether the Senate would vote to maintain this program. In the meantime, the program continued to operate.