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In an effort to help improve internet access for consumers, especially those in rural areas, U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) introduced the bipartisan Internet Exchange (IX) Act (S. 1166).

Internet Exchanges (IXs) are physical locations where networks come together. The IXs allow subscribers of different internet service providers to communicate with one another, according to a press release from Baldwin. IXs also provide opportunities for content delivery networks (CDNs) 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.

“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 Baldwin in a press release. “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.”

IX facilities 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 press release stated. 

“You can’t have a 21st century education, 21st century healthcare, or a 21st century business without access to 21st century internet,” said 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.”

This legislation authorizes matching grants to be administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to help establish new IX facilities where none exist, or to help an existing one expand.

It also permits eligible recipients under the E-Rate program (for schools and libraries) and Telehealth program to use available funding 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.

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