Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) on Thursday introduced S. 1166, the Internet Exchange (IX) Act, which will help to improve internet access for consumers, especially those in rural areas.
“You can’t have a 21st century education, 21st century healthcare, or a 21st century business without access to 21st century internet,” said Senator Blackburn. “The bipartisan IX Act will make big strides in closing the digital divide in Tennessee by providing internet access to areas with the highest degree of need.”
"We need to strengthen our internet infrastructure to better serve Middle America and rural communities, and improve the online experience for people in all parts of our country,” said Senator Baldwin. “This bipartisan measure will help expand broadband access across our country. By investing in our internet infrastructure and adding more internet exchanges in Wisconsin and throughout the heartland, we can help more rural households and rural businesses gain better access to high-speed internet.”
Internet Exchanges are physical locations where networks come together – they allow subscribers of different internet service providers to communicate with one another. IXs also provide opportunities for content delivery networks and others to cache content closer to end-users, thus reducing latency and increasing network efficiency to improve the online experience for consumers, especially in rural areas. IX facilities also provide opportunities for data centers and cloud computing to be collocated at IX sites, thus increasing efficiency and boosting local economies. Currently, IXs are concentrated in big cities and in the coastal states.
The bill has two primary sections: (1) Authorizes matching grants to be administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce, to help establish new IX facilities where none exist, or to help an existing one expand if it is the only IX facility in a core based statistical area. (2) Permits eligible recipients under the E-Rate program (for schools and libraries) and Telehealth program to use such funds to contract with a broadband provider to obtain a connection to an IX facility, or to pay for the costs of maintaining a point of presence at an IX facility.