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Energy and Commerce Committee Works to Keep Americans Online During COVID-19

May 12, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Today, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle (D-PA) applauded the introduction of The Heroes Act in the House of Representatives, which includes their critical provisions that, if enacted, will connect Americans to broadband during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

“With schools closed and millions out of work, Congress must use its powers to keep Americans connected.  This bill keeps all of our kids safe and digitally connected, providing $1.5 billion immediately for online distance learning,” Pallone and Doyle said.  “It also provides much-needed support to struggling families, those who are low-income or have someone in the family who has been furloughed or laid off, by providing them a monthly credit of up to $50 on their internet service bills.  We’re hopeful that this legislation will garner strong, bipartisan support so we can stand up for children and families who are struggling during this pandemic.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has made clear not only how critically important internet access is, but also how devastating it can be for the many consumers on the wrong side of the digital divide.  As more and more workers are laid-off and schools plan for distance learning going into the upcoming academic year, Pallone and Doyle believe we must take immediate steps to connect all Americans.  This legislation:

  • Provides $1.5 billion through the E-Rate Program immediately for schools and libraries to purchase hotspots, connected devices, connectivity and related equipment to facilitate distance learning during the emergency.
  • Provides $4 billion to connect struggling families by providing up to $50 a month for those low-income families already eligible for the Lifeline Program— and for those that have been laid off or furloughed—to pay their internet service bills during the emergency.
  • Prohibits telephone and broadband service providers from stopping service to consumers unable to pay during the duration of the emergency.
  • Helps Americans better access mental health crisis counseling by designating 9-8-8 as the nationwide suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline so that Americans that are isolated and feeling hopeless can get help.
  • Drastically reduces the rates that incarcerated persons pay to connect with family and friends.
  • Ensures our frontline first responders can keep using the airwaves they rely on to communicate, specifically the T-Band, so their radios and communications systems continue to work.