Source: United States House of Representatives – Congresswoman Angie Craig (MN-02)
May 1, 2020
Today, U.S. Rep. Angie Craig, a member of the House Rural Broadband Task Force, joined her colleagues to introduce an urgent framework to expand broadband access. The plan includes affordability measures for families and investments in creative solutions like lending hot spots to students to address the current lack of reliable broadband infrastructure.
“Broadband is not a luxury, it’s the infrastructure of the 21st Century. I’ve talked with health care professionals, nonprofits, educators and small business owners who have all had to lean on technology to continue their work and connect with necessary resources, yet in many places, these resources are scarce at best,” said Rep. Angie Craig. “It’s clear that now more than ever we need to expand rural broadband access so our health care professionals have access to virtual visits, students are able to connect with their educators and all of us can use digital tools to stay connected with our loved ones.”
“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 Rural Broadband Task Force Chairman 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.”
The House Democratic Plan To Connect All Americans To Affordable Broadband Internet includes:
Investments 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.
Ensurances of 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.
Internet Adoption Possibilities
- 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.
This plan to expand broadband is supported by the Rural Broadband Task Force and the House Energy and Commerce Committee.