Weekly Column

When I ran for the Nebraska Legislature and then for the U.S. Senate, I promised to advocate for each person I represent.

In urban Washington, rural voices can sometimes be neglected and undervalued. I recognize this, which is why I regularly work on legislation to help the 46 million Americans who live in rural areas. In the Senate, we have an obligation to the millions of rural citizens in our country as we do to the majority who live in urban population hubs.

Robust connectivity and communications are foundational to quality of life in America, especially in rural areas where the closest neighbor can be many miles away. In the modern age, that means broadband access and high-speed Internet. But of course, the Internet is not the only way people consume news or access important information.

In Nebraska, we have a long history of farm broadcasters who help farmers and ranchers thrive. Today, there are still over 40 AM stations based in the state. Many of these stations are farm broadcasters geared toward helping farmers and ranchers. They provide communities with reports on local news, weather patterns, agribusiness news, commodity market swings, and more. This kind of information is essential for producers working to feed and fuel the world.

Unfortunately, some have lost sight of the fundamental role broadcast radio plays in rural America. A number of automakers announced plans this year to remove AM broadcast radio access from some of their vehicles.

This would deal a blow to the millions who need AM radio access to receive emergency alerts in remote areas or disaster events, as well as to be aware of local news and weather conditions. The benefit of these alerts goes beyond just the local community. Travelers and truckers crisscrossing our country, some of whom may not have strong cell service, need access to these alerts to know when emergencies strike.

The bottom line is AM radio is not just a luxury—as the backbone of our Emergency Alert System, it can be a question of life or death for people during natural disasters and severe storms.

My colleagues and I are concerned about how this decision will affect the safety of Americans. That’s why we introduced a bicameral, bipartisan bill to preserve AM radio access despite some automakers’ efforts to get rid of it.

Our bill, the AM for Every Vehicle Act, would direct the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, to issue a rule requiring all motor vehicles to have access to AM broadcast stations.

The legislation is already having an impact. It recently spurred Ford Motor Company to reverse course and restore access to AM radio to its upcoming car models. But passing our bill into law is the only way to prevent other automakers from abandoning AM radio, against the best interests of public safety in places where wireless warnings can be difficult to receive.

The American people who travel to work and school on rural roads each day are relying on us to ensure they don’t lose access to local news, weather, and emergency announcements from AM radio.

The U.S. Senate represents millions of people in rural communities across the country. I won’t stand for putting those voices aside while we prioritize other issues. As long as I have the privilege of serving as your senior senator, I’ll continue to support rural communications access and advance legislation that supports the critical services they provide.

Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.

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