Klobuchar Bill Would Devote $100B to Rural Broadband

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Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), co-chair of the Senate Broadband Caucus, recently introduced broadband infrastructure legislation to expand access to affordable high-speed internet. The Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act will invest $100 billion to build high-speed broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved communities to close the digital divide. The measure is a companion bill to House legislation led by House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) and members of the House Rural Broadband Task Force. 

In the Senate, the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act is co-sponsored by Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV). 

“When we invest in broadband infrastructure, we invest in opportunity for every American,” Klobuchar said. “In 2020, we should be able to bring high-speed internet to every family in America — regardless of their zip code — and this legislation is a critical step to help bridge the digital divide once and for all.”

According to the FCC’s most recent 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:

  • Encourage Universal Broadband Access by:
    • including $80 billion to deploy high-speed broadband infrastructure;
    • allocating $5 billion for low-interest financing of broadband deployment through a new secured loan program; and
    • establishing a new office within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to ensure efficient use of federal money.
  • Ensure Internet Affordability by:
    • requiring an affordable option for internet service plans offered on the newly-built infrastructure;
    • providing a $50 monthly discount on plans for low-income consumers; and
    • directing the FCC to collect and publicize data on prices charged for broadband service.
  • Promote Internet Adoption by:
    • 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;
    • including $5 billion to enable students without internet at home to participate in remote learning; and
    • authorizing funding for WiFi on school buses so students can stay connected, especially in rural areas where longer bus rides are common.

“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,” said Shirley Bloomfield, CEO, NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association. She said NTCA appreciates Klobuchar’s, “acknowledgment here 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 the Senator and other 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.”

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