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Source: United States House of Representatives – Congressman Dave Loebsack (2nd District Iowa)

Congressman Dave Loebsack today joined House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn, Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr, and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle, among others, to announce a plan to connect all Americans to affordable broadband internet. This announcement builds on the previously laid out plan in the Moving America Forward Framework and is the result of collaboration between the Rural Broadband Task Force, the Energy & Commerce Committee, and Members of the House Democratic Caucus. Loebsack serves on the Communications and Technology subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over telecommunications issues. He also serves as a co-chair of the Rural Broadband Caucus. Specific details of the plan are below.

“The future of economic development in Iowa and across the country depends, in large part, on access to the internet and specifically high-speed broadband. It is unacceptable that in 2020, many families, small businesses, farmers, educators and healthcare providers don’t have access to high-speed internet, which is needed to ensure our rural communities can thrive,” said Congressman Loebsack. “In times like these, when families are at home, millions of K-12 students do not have access to the highspeed internet needed to take classes and complete their assignments online. As the spread of COVID-19 continues, it shines an even brighter light on the “broadband gap” that exists between urban and rural communities. Once the transmission of COVID-19 has slowed between people, to ensure a full economic recovery and close the “broadband gap,” getting broadband to those who don’t have it must be a top priority.”

“Speaking to a gathering in a small rural Tennessee church in the early 1940s, a farmer proclaimed, ‘Brothers and sisters: I want to tell you this. The greatest thing on Earth is to have the love of God in your heart. And the next greatest thing is to have electricity in your house.’ Just as the Great Depression made clear to all that electricity was the ‘next greatest thing’ in the 20th century, the coronavirus pandemic is making clear to all that broadband is the ‘next next greatest thing’ in the 21st century,” said House Majority Whip Clyburn. “Just as the Rural Electrification Act made electricity accessible and affordable to all Americans, the plan we are announcing today will make broadband accessible and affordable to all Americans. As we see millions of our fellow Americans unable to telework, learn remotely, or access telehealth because they lack broadband, now is the time to act.”

‪“In January, House Democrats proposed a bold framework to rebuild our country that included over $80 billion for broadband investments and built upon the Energy and Commerce Committee’s years-long work on the LIFT America Act. With the COVID-19 pandemic now plaguing our nation, our urgency to ensure all Americans have access to affordable, high-speed broadband internet has only increased,” said Chairman Pallone. “This proposal will create good paying jobs and guarantee that no community is left behind in the digital economy. These investments are especially important for our children who rely on remote-learning, patients using telehealth, and many low-income and rural Americans who currently lack access to reliable internet service.”

“Now, more than ever, broadband is essential for participation in our economy and our democracy. It is the glue that is holding our communities together as people work from home and communicate with friends and loved ones. Tens of millions of students are learning from home right now, and an estimated 7 million of them live in homes without broadband access. Far too many low income and rural communities either can’t afford access or don’t have it. Our nation needs to get these kids and these communities connected before they fall further behind,” said Chairman Doyle. “I’ve worked to address these inequities for years, and I’ve called for investing substantial federal resources to bridge the digital divide. I’m proud to join with my colleagues in offering this comprehensive plan, and I commend the leadership of my good friend and our Whip Jim Clyburn in offering up this proposal.”

House Democratic Plan to Connect All Americans to Affordable Broadband Internet

Invest in Internet Infrastructure

– Deploy High-Speed Broadband – Invests $80 billion over five years to deploy secure and resilient broadband infrastructure to expand access for communities nationwide, connecting unserved and underserved rural, suburban, and urban areas across the country while prioritizing persistent poverty communities.
– Offer Low-Interest Financing for Broadband Deployment – Invests $5 billion over five years for low-interest financing of broadband deployment through a new program that would allow eligible entities to apply for secured loans, lines of credit, or loan guarantees to finance broadband infrastructure build out projects.
– Dig Once – Promotes the installation of broadband conduit during the construction of any road receiving federal funding to facilitate the building of broadband network infrastructure.
– Invest Federal Funds Efficiently – Establishes the Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, responsible for coordinating with other federal agencies to streamline the application processes for broadband funding programs; ensure that broadband-related support is being administered in an efficient, technology-neutral, and financially sustainable manner; and track all federal money used for construction and use of broadband infrastructure.

Ensure Internet Affordability

– Promote Competition – Gives preference in awarding funding to broadband builds that will provide open access to new infrastructure to allow additional providers to use taxpayer funded infrastructure on fair terms to provide more options to consumers.
– Require an Affordable Option – Requires internet service providers whose networks are built with new federal funding to offer at least one affordable option.
Enhance Payment Support – Increases existing payment support for consumers, expands eligibility for and applicability of support, and eliminates barriers to helping low-income and recently unemployed Americans afford broadband access.
– Protect Local Options – Guarantees the right of local governments, public-private partnerships, and cooperatives to deliver broadband service, which has lowered prices in many communities.
– Gather Pricing Data – Directs the Federal Communications Commission to collect data on prices charged for broadband service throughout the country and make that data widely available with appropriate privacy protections.
– Learn More Information – Directs the Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth to conduct a study on the extent to which cost remains a barrier to broadband adoption and the feasibility of providing additional targeted federal subsidies to offset costs for low-income households.

Enable Internet Adoption

– Promoting Broadband Adoption and Digital Skills – Provides over $1 billion to establish the State Digital Equity Capacity Program, an annual grant program for states to create and implement comprehensive digital equity plans to help close gaps in broadband adoption and digital skills, and to also establish the Digital Equity Competitive Grant Program to further support these efforts through digital inclusion projects undertaken by individual organizations and local communities.
– Lend Mobile Hotspots – Provides for the rapid deployment of mobile hotspots and other internet-connected devices to enable students without internet at home to participate in remote learning and complete homework assignments requiring an internet connection.
– Connect School Buses – Authorizes funding for Wi-Fi on school buses so that students can be connected, especially in rural areas where long bus rides are common.