Senators Introduce Bill to Ensure Americans Keep Broadband Access During the Pandemic
Emergency Broadband Connections Act provides support to workers who have been laid off or furloughed; Aids workers and families that need broadband to find jobs and access health care, education and other services
Washington, D.C. - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) joined Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawai’i), and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y) in introducing a bill to ensure that millions of Americans can access essential broadband connections in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Emergency Broadband Connections Act – sponsored by 26 Senate Democrats – would provide a $50/month benefit to workers who have been laid off or furloughed during the pandemic, along with a range of other assistance to ensure families can access critical online services. Broadband connections are essential for Americans seeking to get new jobs, and to access school, health care and other government services.
“Access to reliable, high-speed Internet is one of the best tools for unlocking economic opportunity,” said Senator Warren. “As millions of Americans are working from home or practicing social distancing, ensuring working families have access to critical broadband connections is more important than ever.”
“There’s every indication the fallout from the coronavirus will drag on for months,” Senator Wyden said. “Our legislation will make sure workers and families in need don’t find themselves stranded offline at the same time they lose a paycheck. It’s critical to bridging the digital divide, and helping Americans get back to work and school as soon as possible.”
“Online access is a lifeblood for families right now – connecting them with loved ones, employment resources, their children’s teachers, even remote healthcare providers. We should be taking every precaution to ensure that workers who have been laid off or furloughed are able to stay connected when they need access to those resources most,” Senator Blumenthal said.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated the digital divide in America, including the more than 14 million estimated households—including more than 52,000 Hawaii households—that don’t have any internet. As workers have shifted to telework and students are distance learning, it is critical that we get these households connected,” Senator Hirono said. “The Emergency Broadband Connections Act seeks to close this digital divide by providing internet-connected devices and broadband access to those in need, even as social distancing continues.”
“The economic downturn from the coronavirus pandemic has upended the lives of working families and created uncertainty for their futures,” said Senator Schumer. “This legislation will help provide essential resources to workers who have lost their jobs and ensure that a lack of internet won’t make their road to recovery more difficult.”
The bill would fill an essential need as the FCC’s voluntary Keep Americans Connected pledge by internet service providers to help consumers continue to access internet service during the pandemic, ends this week.
The legislation parallels provisions of the House HEROES Act, and the Emergency Broadband Connections Act by Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Texas.
Along with Senators Warren, Wyden, Blumenthal, Hirono and Schumer the bill is also cosponsored by Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai’i), Kirstin Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Kamala Harris (D-Calif), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Ben Cardin (D- Md.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.).
Since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, Senator Warren has worked to ensure that the U.S. has the resources needed to address this threat. In March, Senator Warren sent a letter with Senator Markey to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) urging the agency to take emergency action to address broadband internet accessibility for students, workers and patients and ensure equal access to the internet during the COVID-19 outbreak. She joined Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) to call for major internet service providers to waive data caps to ensure students have sufficient internet access during the coronavirus outbreak. She also joined Senator Markey in seeking a waiver to E-Rate rules during the outbreak.
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