WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y) says the pandemic confirmed internet access is no longer a luxury, but a necessity in rural America.

“Across the country 17.3% of Americans in rural areas don’t have access to reliable broadband, compared to only 1% of Americans in urban areas,” Gillibrand said.

Gillibrand said that’s why she’s pushing to fully fund the USDA Rural Broadband Program, using $350 million to get rural Americans online.

“Encourages more high speed broadband deployment to high need areas by awarding grants in combination with loan funding available through the USDA rural utility service,” Gillibrand said.

It’s a goal Republicans, like Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), support.

“I am absolutely committed too. I would join with senator Gillibrand to ask for full funding on the reconnect program through USDA,” Capito said.

Gillibrand says the bipartisan effort will target previously neglected areas.

“Any place that the private sector won’t cover rural broadband, these grants will cover,” Gillibrand said.

Capito says she’s also advancing legislation to let the FCC ensure rural areas have strong signal quality.

“Incrementally, we are getting there…. but we need to do this faster than incrementally and that’s what fully funding the USDA reconnect program would do, so I agree with what she is doing,” Capito said.