More than 800 utility-justice, environmental, faith, digital-rights and civil-rights groups called on Congress to include a moratorium on broadband, electricity and water shutoffs in the next COVID-19 relief package.
“Right now, an affordable broadband connection can mean the difference between being employed or unemployed, healthy or sick, connected with the outside world or trapped in isolation,” said Dana Floberg, policy manager at public interest group Free Press. “As the pandemic forces people out of work, millions more people, especially low-income families and communities of color, will find themselves unable to pay for broadband. No one should lose access to lifesaving and necessary communications tools during this crisis.”
In addition to the end of shutoffs, the groups asked lawmakers in a letter to extend these protections for six months after the emergency ends, allowing people to recover economically without the burden of debt. “Congress must act swiftly,” said Floberg. “We must end the shutoffs that leave vulnerable families digitally stranded and fund the emergency broadband-connectivity programs to get and keep impacted communities online.”
In addition to Free Press, other groups signing the letter are the Communications Workers of America, Center for Biological Diversity, Food & Water Action, and Partnerships for Southern Equity.