Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) is hopeful there’s bipartisan congressional support to take action on updating national broadband plans. His statement underscores the urgency of modernizing the plan to expand internet access as the coronavirus pandemic continues to highlight the digital divide.
“I’ve always believed that, essentially, telecommunications policy is bipartisan — should be bipartisan. You have to work hard to make it ideological,” Markey said during an INCOMPAS Policy Summit this week, reported The Hill. The internet and competitive networks association represents internet, streaming, communications and technology firms, lobbying regulators for competition policy across all networks.
Markey and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) this week reintroduced the National Broadband Plan for the Future Act, coinciding with the 25th anniversary of the 1996 Telecommunications Act. Markey and Eshoo’s bill calls for the FCC to update the national broadband plan in a way that addresses concerns highlighted by the coronavirus pandemic.
It would require the agency to assess America’s progress in deploying broadband infrastructure since the 25-year-old plan was created, and develop a new roadmap for closing the digital divide. Markey served in the House when the Act was crafted and had a major hand in writing the measure. “I’m proud of the roadmap that my previous provision created and the amazing progress we’ve made over the last decade. However, we still have a ways to go before we finish the job,” Markey stated.
Eshoo similarly called attention to issues of the digital divide emphasized by the pandemic, as professional and personal life has largely shifted online. “From telehealth to remote learning to teleworking, high-speed internet is essential in our day-to-day lives. We must make broadband affordable and accessible for all Americans,” Eshoo said in a statement.
Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), the top GOP member of the Senate Commerce Committee, signaled Republicans are willing to reach across the aisle to update the 1996 law, according to the account. Committee Republicans tweeted that Wicker, “looks forward to working with his colleagues to modernize aspects of the law to accelerate broadband deployment to unserved areas and promote continued investment and innovation in the communications sector.”