WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (SC-06), members of the House Rural Broadband Task Force and House Democrats introduced H.R. 7302, the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act, which invests $100 billion to build high-speed broadb ]]> said Whip Clyburn. “Since then, the disparity between those served and unserved has become clearer. In my home state alone, nearly 1 in 10 South Carolina households lack access to a reliable broadband connection. That is why I am proud that the Rural Broadband Task Force, in collaboration with members of the Energy and Commerce Committee, crafted the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act to address this issue once and for all.” According to the most recent Federal Communications Commission’s Broadband Deployment Report , 18 million people lack access to broadband, and experts widely agree that this number is understated. The Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act would do the following:
- Encourage Universal Broadband Access by:
o including $80 billion to deploy high-speed broadband infrastructure nationwide; o allocating $5 billion for low-interest financing of broadband deployment through a new secured loan program; and o establishing a new office within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to ensure efficient use of federal money.
- Ensure Internet Affordability by:
o requiring an affordable option for internet service plans offered on the newly-built infrastructure; o providing a $50 monthly discount on plans for low-income consumers; and o directing the FCC to collect and publicize data on prices charged for broadband service throughout the country.
- Promote Internet Adoption by:
o providing over $1 billion to establish grant programs for states to close gaps in broadband adoption, as well as digital inclusion projects for organizations and local communities to implement; o including $5 billion to enable students without internet at home to participate in remote learning; and o authorizing funding for Wi-Fi on school buses so students can stay connected, especially in rural areas where longer bus rides are common. This legislation is the product of extensive collaboration between the House Rural Broadband Task Force and members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and is included in House Democrats’ Moving Forward Act, a transformational infrastructure package to create jobs rebuilding America. The Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act currently has over 30 cosponsors. See what some of the bill’s cosponsors are saying below: Rep. Cindy Axne (IA-3) “As I’ve said since my first days in office, it is unacceptable that two decades into the 21st century – the digital century – that many in our rural communities lack the internet connectivity to participate in the modern economy, educational instruction, or community affairs. I’m extremely proud of this legislation that our Task Force has spent the last year crafting – it takes a comprehensive approach to closing the digital gap and will make a real difference in the lives and livelihoods of Iowans and others across our nation. The COVID-19 crisis has really illustrated how important this bill is – it’s impossible to take classes or work from home if your internet connection is slow or unreliable, which risks leaving kids and families behind as we attempt to recover.” Rep. Anthony Brindisi (NY-22) “The global pandemic has exposed glaring problems in our broadband infrastructure, but spotty service at unaffordable prices are not new for many in our more rural communities. As a member of the Rural Broadband Task Force and across Upstate New York, I’ve seen first-hand the need for an investment to bring affordable and reliable internet to our communities. If we are serious about bridging the urban and rural divide, and making sure our rural communities—especially our school children—are not left behind in the digital age, we need to work together to build out our infrastructure, add transparency for big cable companies, and increase competition in the marketplace. This bill will do just that.” Rep. G. K. Butterfield (NC-1) “As the country continues to recover in the wake of the COVID-19 epidemic, the need for a high-speed internet connection to participate in the modern economy has become clearer than ever, especially in rural districts like mine. I’m proud to join Whip Clyburn in introducing this legislation to promote the deployment of secure and reliable Internet connections for communities nationwide still lacking consistent service. This legislation will create educational and health resources, and spur much needed economic development for rural communities that have been left behind in today’s digital world.” Rep. TJ Cox (CA-21) “As we continue to innovate to fight COVID-19, we must not overlook our rural communities that disproportionately feel the detrimental effects of the digital divide. This investment in broadband infrastructure is a down payment on the future of almost every industry, especially Central Valley agriculture and education. I am happy to support this bill, which will bring us closer to reliable, affordable broadband access for all.” Rep. Angie Craig (MN-2) “Access to broadband is critical in a 21st Century economy. I’ve talked with health care professionals, nonprofits, educators and small business owners who need these resources now more than ever. This legislation will help us 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.” Rep. Antonio Delgado (NY-19) “The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the necessity of broadband, from homeschooling, to supporting our small businesses, to effectuating telemedicine. For far too long, our rural communities have been held back by a lack of access to this essential utility in the 21st century, and there is simply no excuse. I’m proud to join in introducing this legislation to get high-speed internet into homes all across my district and beyond.” Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (CA-18) “Tens of millions of Americans still lack access to high-quality internet service. This is simply unacceptable. Access to high speed internet is essential in the 21st Century, particularly as Americans are conducting more of their lives online during the COVID-19 public health emergency. I thank Whip Clyburn for including my bills, the Nationwide Dig Once Act of 2020 and Community Broadband Act, as part of this critical package to modernize our country’s broadband infrastructure.” Rep. Abby Finkenauer (IA-1) “As internet speeds continue to increase around the country, our rural communities cannot be left behind. Whether it is our farmers and producers unable to take full advantage of technology in their fields or our students unable to use all the tools available in the classroom, our rural communities need access to 21st Century technology. This is a bipartisan issue, and I believe our solution should have wide bipartisan support. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass important legislation what will make a real difference for many rural Iowans.” Rep. Ro Khanna (CA-17) “Internet access is a human right. Promoting competition, quicker speeds, and protections for local internet options, like those offered by co-ops and municipalities, are critical steps toward making that right a reality in this country. The bold investment in this bill will make the internet affordable and accessible for all Americans. Universal internet access is essential to ensure everyone can participate in the gains of the tech economy. Proud to cosponsor Whip Clyburn’s bill, and look forward to continuing to work with the Rural Broadband Taskforce.” Rep. Ron Kind (WI-3) “As we have seen over the last few months, access to internet in our rural areas is no longer a want, but a need. Wisconsin students, small businesses, and families desperately need low cost, high-speed internet to stay connected in the 21st century. Over the past year, our task force has worked hard to find solutions that will help cooperatives leverage federal dollars, invest in the underserved and unserved areas across the country, and, most importantly, get these communities connected.” Rep. Annie Kuster (NH-2) “The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for all Americans to have a reliable internet connection as students have moved from classrooms to remote learning, patients are receiving telehealth care from the safety of their own homes, and many employees are working remotely. While this public health emergency has underscored the broadband needs of many communities, having a reliable internet connection will continue to be essential as we move past this pandemic and begin our ‘new normal.’ I’m proud to help introduce this commonsense legislation to help ensure that vulnerable and underserved communities have the internet connection they need to thrive. I will continue working to support Granite Staters and people across the country throughout this public health crisis." Rep. Dave Loebsack (IA-2) “It is imperative that every home and business, no matter where they are located, have access to high-speed broadband. I am pleased to have worked with Whip Clyburn and the other members of the Rural Broadband Taskforce to put together this legislation that will help connect folks living and working in rural areas with the high-speed internet they need to work, learn and play. I look forward to working with my colleagues to help pass this important legislation to expand access and help close the digital divide.” Rep. Ben Ray Luján (NM-3) “Broadband is a crucial lifeline that connects Americans to a world of opportunities. During the COVID-19 pandemic, broadband is critically needed to access the education, health care, and economic resources needed to get through this crisis. As a member of House Leadership, I’ve been proud to work with my colleagues to bolster broadband access across the nation and tackle the digital disparities affecting rural and Tribal communities. This broadband package includes my provisions to spur the deployment of high-speed internet across the country through low-cost financing for communities and to connect school buses to Wi-Fi to address the homework gap that rural and Tribal students face. It also includes legislation I've championed to provide robust funding to deploy broadband infrastructure and to promote digital equity.” Rep. Tom Malinowski (NJ-7) “There are places in my district in New Jersey where kids have to go to a youth center or a library parking lot after hours to do their homework because they don’t have access to broadband at home. As a member of the House Rural Broadband Task Force, I am proud to be putting forward this sweeping legislation that will give all Americans access to affordable high-speed internet.” Rep. Jerry McNerney (CA-9) “I’m proud to cosponsor the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act. We can’t fully unleash the economic opportunities for our constituents, our communities, and our nation until we close gaps in broadband deployment, adoption, and digital literacy. The legislation being introduced today is vital for achieving this goal. I want to thank Whip Clyburn, Chairman Pallone, and all of my colleagues who helped put together this important legislation,” said Congressman McNerney. “I’m especially pleased to see that this bill includes the Digital Equity Act that I authored with my colleagues Representatives Clarke and Luján, and which would create two critical federal grant programs to help close gaps in broadband adoption and promote digital skills and literacy.” Rep. Grace Meng (NY-6) “It is deeply alarming that our country continues to fail to ensure all Americans have accessible and affordable broadband access; and this should be a call to action. That is why I’m honored to be a part of Whip Clyburn’s Rural Broadband Task Force to develop a national strategy that closes the digital divide. I worked with my colleagues to spearhead an initiative to help close the so-called ‘homework gap,’ and I am thrilled that this bill includes $5 billion for the FCC to distribute to schools, libraries and Tribal lands to purchase Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and other connected devices to ensure kids can do their homework. Our work is far from complete but this is a bold plan that will make significant headway to ensuring everyone can have internet access.” Rep. Tom O'Halleran (AZ-1) “Access to reliable, high speed internet is the key to unlocking economic development, education opportunities, and telehealth capabilities in our rural communities. I’m pleased to see that this bill appropriates $24 million to the FCC to complete broadband mapping updates required under the Broadband DATA Act, legislation my colleagues and I introduced to improve the broadband mapping process nationwide to accurately reflect coverage levels in rural areas. This bill makes critical investments in the expansion of broadband infrastructure in the rural and tribal communities that need it most. This is an important step towards getting Americans broadband, but we need to continue to examine how we ensure our constituents have the right services they need.” Rep. Mark Pocan (WI-2) “This pandemic makes it clearer than ever that high-speed broadband is a basic necessity. As we have been forced to transition to a remote lifestyle where education, work and healthcare is often dependent on access to internet, that access should not be threatened by your socioeconomic status or your geographic location. It’s time Congress take action to ensure everyone remains connected during and after this pandemic.” Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-7) “The coronavirus has only further highlighted the importance of high-speed, affordable internet, as lack of access has made it more difficult for Alabamians to learn from home, access telehealth service and telework during the pandemic. We cannot wait to invest in high-speed broadband deployment necessary to reach every unserved and underserved American family, hospital, school and small business. If we fail to invest now, millions of American will be disconnected from the economic recovery on the other side of this crisis.” Rep. Abigail Spanberger (VA-7) “Access to reliable high-speed internet is fundamentally an issue of opportunity. A lack of broadband connectivity hurts the ability of students to complete their homework, businesses to recruit and hire new employees, and farmers to take advantage of the latest ag technologies. During my first term in the U.S. House, I’ve repeatedly heard from our neighbors in Central Virginia about the need for expanded internet access, whether at town halls, at community roundtables, or at my Rural Broadband Summit. I’ve been proud to serve as a Member of the Rural Broadband Task Force to make sure Congress recognizes the pressing need for broadband investment in any nationwide infrastructure package. This landmark legislation includes major wins for the Seventh District — including expanded E-Rate funding and a strong investment in broadband deployment in rural and underserved areas, like those in many of the Seventh District’s counties. I’d like to thank Rep. Clyburn for his leadership on our Task Force, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in both parties as we work together to close the digital divide.” Rep. Paul Tonko (NY-20) “The coronavirus pandemic has exposed major U.S. economic vulnerabilities starting with vast gaps in our nation’s broadband infrastructure, with an already chronic lack of service creating even greater problems now for Americans working to adapt and weather this storm. I have heard from workers, students and teachers, business owners, health care providers and countless others from across my district facing this challenge and they are just a small fraction of the millions of Americans who are still underserved. Our legislation takes long overdue steps to propel America’s broadband infrastructure forward, making our economy more competitive and helping close the most critical of those gaps. Thank you to my colleagues who have been instrumental in advancing this timely & practical legislation, and I urge its passage without delay.” Rep. Xochitl Torres Small (NM-2) “Good, reliable internet is crucial for communities across New Mexico. It connects small businesses to critical resources, provides a lifeline for those relying on telehealth for medical care, and helps students continue their education during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, underinvestment in our communities and flawed broadband service maps continue to leave rural New Mexicans without the high-quality service they need. I’ve been at work with the Rural Broadband Task Force to invest in solutions that work for New Mexico. Throughout this process I’ve advocated for our district’s top priorities, including funding for service maps that reflect the reality on the ground and solutions to cover the last mile buildout in our most rural and remote communities.” Rep. David Trone (MD-6) "The COVID-19 outbreak has shined a light on the inadequate broadband access across the country as millions struggle to access high-quality, affordable internet for telework, teleeducation, and telehealth. Just like we invest in our physical roads and highways, it's time to adequately invest in our digital highways so underserved and vulnerable communities have the necessary tools to learn, work, and stay healthy. I'm proud to join the Rural Broadband Task Force to prioritize the millions of Americans who have been left behind because of the lack of broadband access in their daily lives." Rep. Peter Welch (VT-AL) “With millions of people required to stay home and students across the country learning from home, this pandemic has sharpened the digital divide that exists across America. We need to act now to close this divide and connect all Americans with high-speed, affordable broadband. Our students, health care providers, business owners, and farmers need high-speed internet to survive in the modern economy. I am pleased that we have been able to transform the broadband plan by the Rural Broadband Task Force and Whip Clyburn into a transformative bill to connect every American.” The Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act has garnered widespread support among broadband advocates. See what advocates and supporters are saying below: Access Now - Eric Null, U.S. Policy Manager "Many people take having broadband access for granted, but even in 2020, millions of Americans lack access to high-quality broadband. That 'digital divide' most often affects low-income communities, people of color, and Indigenous people, and has long plagued the United States even before the pandemic made it painfully clear. Representative Clyburn's broadband bill would provide long-needed relief and narrow the chasm between the broadband haves and have-nots. With infrastructure investment and a direct broadband benefit for low-income people, this bill would help bring millions more online. And the bill would finally require the FCC to collect broadband pricing data, crucial to understanding the competitive landscape and the affordability of broadband, and to holding internet service providers accountable." American Library Association “ALA commends Congressman James E. Clyburn and his colleagues on the House Rural Broadband Task Force for bringing together a comprehensive plan to address the digital inequities that plague rural and urban communities and are especially felt by people of color and Indigenous people. The Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act tackles all sides of the digital divide: access, affordability, and adoption, and digital skills. America’s 117,000 libraries are key partners in advancing all these goals – and in providing opportunity to build digital skills. ALA applauds an approach that involves coordination among federal, state, and local organizations and looks forward to working with Whip Clyburn, Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and the Task Force to move this bold legislation forward.” Communications Workers of America - Chris Shelton, President “Millions of families in the United States do not have access to affordable, reliable broadband internet connections — totally unacceptable before, but especially unacceptable during a pandemic when many are being asked to stay at home to bend the curve to save lives. The House Democrats’ broadband infrastructure bill introduced today includes strong provisions to expand broadband access to rural communities and protect good union jobs across the country.” Consumer Reports -Jonathan Schwantes, Senior Policy Counsel “Consumer Reports is proud to support the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act authored and introduced by Representative Clyburn today. This bill represents a long overdue down payment for what it will take to finally close the digital divide and get more Americans, especially our most vulnerable, connected to the internet. Of the many things we have quickly learned as the pandemic erupted and millions of Americans have shifted to working, learning, and receiving medical care at home is the absolute necessity and value of a reliable and affordable internet connection. Many more consumers need better access to the internet that is also more affordable. Today's legislation contains real money and solutions that will begin to accomplish those twin goals. CR stands ready to help Congress pass this important and timely measure.” Federal Communications Commission - Geoffrey Starks, Commissioner “Millions of Americans—in rural and urban areas—don’t have broadband at home because it is simply too expensive. Closing the digital divide means making broadband affordable for all Americans, and I commend Congressman Clyburn and the entire Rural Broadband Task Force for putting that goal at the heart of this legislation.” Federal Communications Commission - Jessica Rosenworcel, Commissioner “Broadband is no longer nice-to-have, it’s need-to-have for work, education, healthcare, and so much of modern life. So kudos to the Rural Broadband Task Force for recognizing this truth and coming up with a plan to connect us all. Working together like this we can solve the digital divide, fix the homework gap, and give everyone a fair shot at internet age success.” Free Press Action - Matt Wood, Vice President of Policy "The House Democrats' broadband bill is a landmark achievement, thanks to Representative Clyburn's leadership, Speaker Pelosi's focus on broadband, and the compendium of great ideas flowing from the Energy & Commerce Committee into this legislation. While the innovative deployment and financing strategies will rightly get a lot of attention in an infrastructure package, Free Press Action is especially grateful for the digital equity, affordability, and pricing transparency provisions so essential in a comprehensive approach to getting everyone online. Bridging the digital divide means recognizing, as this bill does, that the majority of people disconnected today are offline because they can't afford the high price for networks already available to them. And it means facing the fact that this affordability gap disproportionately impacts people of color, poorer communities, elderly populations, and other groups at the intersections of systemic discrimination." Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy - Gigi Sohn, Distinguished Fellow The House Rural Broadband Task Force Bill is the right legislation at the right time as the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the need for every American to have robust, high speed broadband Internet access at home. This comprehensive bill addresses the twin problems of broadband affordability and lack of network infrastructure, recognizing that the digital divide is both an urban and a rural problem. And it would promote competition in the broadband market by preferencing open access networks and repealing anticompetitive state laws that prohibit communities from building their own broadband networks. The legislation is a culmination of many months of hard work by the Task Force staff, and in particular House Majority Whip Clyburn’s staff. Their process was inclusive and their responsiveness to suggestions and concerns was extraordinary. The result is a bill that will make great progress towards bringing Internet access to the over 140 million Americans who don’t currently have it. These Americans have gone far too long with a service that is essential to full participation in our economy, our education system, our culture and our democracy. Congress should pass this bill without delay. Institute for Local Self-Reliance - Christopher Mitchell, Director of Community Broadband Networks “This legislation represents a major leap toward the goal of expanding high-quality Internet access to everyone - rural and urban and in between. We need these policies to achieve a more prosperous and equitable society in the same way electrification and telephones created more opportunity for everyone.” National Consumer Law Center - Olivia Wein, Staff Attorney “Black, Hispanic, American Indians and Alaska Natives have lower broadband subscription rates than their White counterparts, and one of the main barriers to broadband service is cost. The Broadband Service for Low-income Consumers program will help close the digital divide by providing low-income households with a $50 broadband benefit ($75 for households on Tribal lands) and the Digital Equity Program will ensure consumers have the digital skills necessary for full participation in our society. On behalf of our low-income clients, we commend the leadership of Whip Clyburn in introducing this critically important bill.” National Digital Inclusion Alliance - Angela Siefer, Executive Director “The COVID-19 crisis has made the whole country aware that tens of millions of our neighbors still lack basic internet connections, and they live in communities of all kinds – big cities, small towns, suburban as well as rural communities. This bill is an historic effort to address all the causes of our persistent digital divide. It includes a substantial investment to extend high speed internet access to areas that that don’t have it now while also addressing adoption of broadband service. This bill creates a federal broadband benefit to make access affordable to everyone, help states and communities fund digital inclusion initiatives, and require the FCC and providers to make the price of home broadband service transparent and public. These are all vital steps toward digital equity for all Americans.” National Rural Electric Cooperative Association - Jim Matheson, CEO “Efforts to bridge the digital divide began nearly 25 years ago, yet millions of rural Americans remain sidelined and disconnected simply because of their zip code. In 2020, that’s unacceptable – especially as the COVID-19 pandemic spotlights the need for high-performing broadband access in so many of aspects of rural communities. More than 150 electric co-ops are working to provide broadband access in their local communities, and hundreds more are conducting feasibility studies. This legislation carries the promise of accelerating those efforts and expanding broadband access across rural America. We commend the cosponsors of the bill for their focus on solving this problem and look forward to working with them and other stakeholders to make broadband access possible throughout the nation.” NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association - Shirley Bloomfield, CEO “As providers based in the communities they serve, NTCA members are committed to ensuring rural Americans receive reliable broadband to engage with critical activities such as telemedicine, distance learning and remote work. We thank Congressman Clyburn for his interest in highlighting the fundamental significance of broadband in all aspects of Americans’ lives by introducing this legislation. We particularly appreciate the bill’s acknowledgment of the need to ensure new networks will be built to meet the challenges of both today and tomorrow, and we look forward to working with policymakers to ensure any new programs to stimulate broadband deployment or make broadband more affordable complement and coordinate with existing deployment commitments and programs aimed at sustaining such efforts.” Open Technology Institute - Joshua Stager, Senior Counsel "We're proud to support this bill, which would make internet service more accessible and affordable during COVID-19 and beyond. The bill would also kill the FCC's war on Lifeline, remove barriers to municipal broadband networks, and give consumers internet pricing transparency for the first time. These are all long overdue steps that would help millions of people. We applaud the Task Force for their work and urge Congress to pass this bill." Public Knowledge - Jenna Leventoff, Senior Policy Counsel “We commend Representative Clyburn, the rural broadband taskforce, and the members of the Energy and Commerce committee who contributed to this legislation. This bill goes far beyond just funding broadband deployment. It also promotes broadband adoption by focusing on affordability and making sure that consumers have both the skills and devices they need to access it. By focusing on all parts of the broadband equation, this legislation will significantly narrow the digital divide.” Read More: