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As Congress and presidential candidates trade accusations over immigration reform, advocates and experts urge caution in spreading misinformation; Alabama takes new action IVF policy following controversial court decision; and central states urge caution with wildfires brewing.

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Congress reaches a deal to avoid a partial government shutdown again. Arizona Republicans want to ensure Trump remains on their state ballot and Senate Democrats reintroduce the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

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Hard times could be ahead for rural school districts that spent federal pandemic money on teacher salaries, a former Oregon lumber community drafts a climate-action plan and West Virginians may soon buy raw milk from squeaky-clean cows.

$65 Billion in Infrastructure Bill to Tackle Rural Broadband

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Monday, December 6, 2021   

OWYHEE, Nev. -- There's a light at the end of the tunnel for rural Nevadans struggling with slow, spotty internet service as the Biden administration's infrastructure bill has allocated $65 billion for broadband improvements.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's ReConnect program just started taking applications for grants and loans to companies willing to build out networks to underserved areas.

Lynn Manning John, vice-principal of Owyhee Combined School on the Duck Valley Indian Reservation, said her community desperately needs better coverage and more bandwidth.

"In the building, we struggle with the internet going out regularly because the kids are on Chromebooks," Manning John explained. "And because of our location, which is a hundred miles from Elko, it sometimes takes us a day or two to get our internet back up."

She pointed out the area has only a single cell tower, and pre-pandemic 90% of families had no home-based internet service. Rural areas often lack communication infrastructure, because the customer base is too small to provide a return on a telecom company's investment.

Manning John said the future of her community, part of the Shoshone Paiute Tribe, depends on better broadband.

"It cannot be left up to the market," Manning John contended. "These kids have a need. Internet is just as essential as indoor plumbing and electricity. It needs to be provided on the scale that we do any type of public service."

Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., voted against the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, saying it favors urban over rural and suburban areas and creates red tape.

Jenny Miller, vice president of states and industry relations with the nonprofit advocacy group Connected Nation, said the country needs to make distance learning and telemedicine available to all, and to close the digital divide.

"It's really a once-in-a-generation amount of money that is coming down the pipe," Miller emphasized. "There is a ton of political pressure to get this moving quickly. We needed this yesterday."


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House Bill passed with an overwhelming vote of 94-6, with three abstentions. Its companion, Senate Bill 159, passed unanimously with a vote of 34-0. (Chad Robertson/Adobe Stock)

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