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Washington's rural communities eager for improved broadband

Sen. Patty Murray explained how much money Washington is getting from the federal government to expand internet access.

SEATTLE — Millions of dollars are pouring into Washington State to expand broadband access and make reliable internet service more affordable.

The money, from the federal government, is badly needed in rural parts of the state, where there's a digital divide.

“I have heard too many heartbreaking stories about students driving to gas stations or truck stops just to do their homework,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington), during a roundtable discussion on internet access, Thursday.

At least 241,000 people in Washington currently do not have broadband access, Murray said.

Washington will get nearly $7 billion in broadband funding from the American Rescue Plan and at least $100 million from the infrastructure package to connect households with reliable high-speed internet.

“Many of our students do not have internet access at home and it's to the point where hotspots won't work because there's no cell service there either,” said Caitlin Tumlinson, a Spanish teacher at Lakeside High School in Nine Mile Falls in Eastern Washington.

For households already with service, there's more assistance to pay the bills.

The Affordable Connectivity Program will provide payments to eligible lower-income households of up to $30 per month. The benefit increases to $75 per month on qualifying tribal lands.


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