Underwood Introduces Accessible, Affordable Internet For All Act with Rural Broadband Task Force
WASHINGTON— Last week, Representative Lauren Underwood (IL-14) joined fellow members of the House Rural Broadband Task Force to introduce legislation to improve broadband access and ensure affordable internet to more Americans. The Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act (H.R. 7302), would invest $100 billion in federal resources to build high-speed broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved communities and ensure that the resulting internet service is affordable. The introduction follows a roundtable with Federal Communications Commissioner (FCC) Jessica Rosenworcel and local officials, where Underwood heard concerns from local Superintendents and Directors of Technology from Plano, Newark, Sandwich, McHenry, Woodstock, and Harvard about broadband connectivity, which has been a particularly challenging issue during the coronavirus pandemic as school, work, and medical appointments have moved online.
“Access to a reliable internet connection has never been more important. How can we expect students to be able to keep up with their peers without internet to pursue their coursework and learn? How can we expect businesses to stay afloat without connectivity to essential business tools and communication? The bottom line is: we can’t; we must do better and improve internet connectivity across the country, especially in our rural areas,” said Underwood. “This bill will help keep our communities connected and close the digital gap; I am proud to have worked with Whip Clyburn and the rest of the Rural Broadband Task Force to develop it over the past year.”
According to the most recent FCC’s 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 do the following:
- Encourage Universal Broadband Access by:
- including $80 billion to deploy high-speed broadband infrastructure nationwide;
- 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 throughout the country.
- 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 Wi-Fi on school buses so students can stay connected, especially in rural areas where longer bus rides are common.
This legislation is the product of extensive collaboration between the House Rural Broadband Task Force and members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and is included in House Democrats’ Moving Forward Act, a transformational infrastructure package to create jobs rebuilding America.
In Congress, Underwood continues to work to improve rural broadband access for northern Illinois communities. Last week, Underwood urged the FCC to prioritize rural broadband access to northern Illinois communities in a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. In June 2019, Underwood joined the entire Illinois Congressional Delegation in a letter to the FCC urging them to improve the nation’s broadband maps by reforming the mapping process for broadband services. Additionally, Underwood supported the Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability Act (H.R. 4229) to help improve the accuracy of FCC broadband data maps by changing the way broadband data is collected. Underwood is a member of the House Task Force on Rural Broadband led by Whip Clyburn.