Underwood Urges FCC to Prioritize Rural Broadband Access for Illinois Communities During Coronavirus Pandemic

June 11, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON— Today, Congresswoman Lauren Underwood (IL-14) urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to prioritize rural broadband access for northern Illinois communities during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. In the letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, Underwood emphasized the importance of internet access for staying connected to jobs, schools, health care providers, and loved ones during this crisis. Underwood urged the FCC to prioritize the full and timely implementation of the Broadband DATA Act, which was enacted on March 23, 2020 with Underwood’s support, to improve broadband maps and internet access in communities that need it most. 

“The ability to stay connected to our jobs, our schools, our health care providers, and our loved ones—while staying home to protect our public health—is essential to Illinoisans facing the enormous challenges of the novel coronavirus pandemic. For too long, the rural and suburban communities I represent in northern Illinois have struggled to obtain reliable and affordable broadband service. The coronavirus pandemic has both heightened these existing needs and exposed new gaps,” Underwood wrote.

In Congress, Underwood continues to work to improve rural broadband access for northern Illinois communities. Underwood is a member of the House Task Force on Rural Broadband led by Whip Clyburn. 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.

A copy of the letter can be found here and below.

June 10, 2020

The Honorable Ajit V. Pai

Chairman

Federal Communications Commission

445 12th Street, S.W.

Washington, D.C. 20554

Dear Chairman Pai:

Internet access has never been more important. The ability to stay connected to our jobs, our schools, our health care providers, and our loved ones—while staying home to protect our public health—is essential to Illinoisans facing the enormous challenges of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19 pandemic). As Congress works to enact additional coronavirus response packages that improve internet access and invest in broadband infrastructure, I urge you to help ensure these resources are delivered to the communities that most need them by prioritizing swift and thorough implementation of the Broadband DATA Act.

For too long, the rural and suburban communities I represent in northern Illinois have struggled to obtain reliable and affordable broadband service. The coronavirus pandemic has both

heightened these existing needs and exposed new gaps. One constituent in Harvard, Illinois, wrote to me that the only broadband service available at his house is so slow that he is unable to work from home, forcing him to choose between risking his job or his health. Another constituent, a teacher in Batavia, shared stories of students in her classes whose home internet is too weak to allow them to fully participate in the video lessons she prepares for them.

The communities I represent, however, are currently denied the federal resources they need because of the unacceptably poor quality of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC)

broadband maps. These maps play a critical role in guiding federal spending but are riddled with inaccuracies that wrongly exclude communities like my own from federal support. Earlier this year, I was proud to support passage and enactment of the bipartisan Broadband DATA Act, which will greatly improve the accuracy, granularity, and transparency of FCC’s flawed maps. As you know, this law also sets clear timelines for FCC’s implementation of these improvements.

Rebuilding in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic will require robust and sustained investment by the federal government in broadband infrastructure. We must not make these investments for the twenty-first century using twentieth-century maps. In light of this crisis, I urge you to ensure the FCC is prioritizing full and timely implementation of the urgently-needed reforms enacted by the Broadband DATA Act so that improved broadband maps can guide our federal response.

I appreciate your attention to this important matter and look forward to working with you to expand broadband access in Illinois during this unprecedented public health emergency.

Sincerely,

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