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Pallone, Clyburn, and 10 House Dems Announce Plan to Connect All Americans to Affordable Broadband Internet

Apr 30, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr., Chairman of the Energy & Commerce Committee, and Congressman James E. Clyburn, House Majority Whip and Chairman of the House Democratic Rural Broadband Task Force, along with 10 members of the Rural Broadband Task Force and Energy & Commerce Committee, today announced the House Democratic Plan to Connect All Americans to Affordable Broadband Internet.  This plan—an updated and expanded version of the broadband provisions of House Democrats’ Moving America Forward Framework—is the product of significant collaboration between the Rural Broadband Task Force, the Energy & Commerce Committee, and many Members of the House Democratic Caucus. 

The other members announcing this plan are: Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle (D-PA), Congressman Jerry McNerney (D-CA), Congressman Dave Loebsack (D-IA), Congressman Marc Veasey (D-TX), Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Congressman Peter Welch (D-VT), Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Congressman Paul Tonko (D-NY), Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-NY), and Congressman Mark Pocan (D-WI).

Democrats welcome recent reports that Republicans support the inclusion of broadband investment in the next coronavirus response packages. This plan will accomplish the goal of delivering affordable access to high-quality internet to all Americans.

“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.”

“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.”

“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.”

“This pandemic has shined a bright light on the stark digital inequity that so many of my constituents and Americans across the country struggle with on a daily basis.  Far too many people who live in areas where broadband has been deployed still don’t have broadband at home, and far too many people lack the digital skills to get ahead or even get by.  We are long overdue for addressing these challenges, and if we don’t act now, there is no question that we will leave those who are already on the wrong side of the digital divide even further behind,” said Congressman McNerney.  “I’m pleased to see that this proposal includes my legislation, the Digital Equity Act, which would create two critical federal grant programs to help close gaps in broadband adoption and digital skills and literacy.”

“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.”

“We are working to ensure that all Americans, no matter income level or race, have access to affordable and high-speed broadband internet, the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the need for reliable connectivity,” said Congressman Veasey.  “This bold framework will equip communities across our country with the much-needed tools they need to help everyone from our students to our health care workers meet the digital demands of the 21st century.” 

“High speed internet is an absolute necessity for every American, and Congress must think big to ensure this outcome,” said Congresswoman Eshoo.  “I’m pleased the House Democratic Plan to Connect All Americans to Broadband Internet includes my Dig Once legislation which requires federally funded road construction to include broadband conduit, and my Community Broadband Act which protects broadband systems operated by municipalities and local public-private-partnership.  These commonsense policies will ensure every American has access to high quality internet, and I thank Mr. Clyburn for his leadership in proposing this bold package.”

“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,” said Congressman Peter Welch.  “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 to work with Whip Clyburn and members of the Rural Broadband Task Force to move this plan forward.”

“Strong investments in broadband infrastructure have never been more important to bolster the health and safety of Americans.  This pandemic has laid bare the inequities that exist in our communities – it is unacceptable that millions of students can't finish their homework assignments at home and that families are unable to access the latest public health information during this crisis,” said Assistant Speaker Luján.  “I am proud to have worked with my colleagues to develop this broadband package and make progress toward getting quality, high-speed internet to all Americans.  It is far past time that we bridge the digital divide to support our local economies and create new, good-paying jobs.”

“During this crisis, I have heard from many people in my district, particularly those in our rural communities, who have been left behind without broadband access.  I strongly support our plan to expand broadband access to all Americans and am proud to author and advance my ACCESS BROADBAND Act included in this package,” said Congressman Tonko.  “This will help expand broadband access in underserved areas and create a simpler process to access federal broadband resources.  I thank my colleagues for their important efforts on this issue and pledge to continue working to improve broadband access for our students, teachers, workers, health care providers and emergency responders.”

“Internet access is critical to ensuring Americans stay connected with their families and friends, aid in their job searches, consume news and entertainment, advertise their businesses, and so much more,” said Congresswoman Meng.  “The novel coronavirus has made abundantly clear to everyone how important broadband access is and lacking this means falling behind those who have it.  This is particularly true for the more than 55 million students who are participating in remote online learning environments during this pandemic; they need internet to complete their assignments and stay connected to their peers and teachers.  As a Member of the Whip’s Rural Broadband Task Force, I’m proud that the Whip’s plan includes my Closing the Homework Gap Through Mobile Hotspots Act, H.R. 5243 which would provide mobile Wi-Fi devices to students without internet access at home.  It is imperative that a bold agenda be implemented and I’m proud of the work the Task Force has done so far.  By unveiling the Whip’s plan, we place an important marker in the ground to ensure everyone has broadband internet – and no one gets left behind.”

“This pandemic makes it clearer than ever that high-speed broadband is a basic necessity,” said Congressman Mark Pocan.  “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.”

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. Also establishes 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