March 20, 2020

Senators Warren and Markey Urge FCC to Take Emergency Action to Ensure Students, Workers, and Patients Have Equal Access to the Internet during COVID-19 Outbreak

21 million Americans, including at least 140,000 Massachusetts residents, cannot access broadband

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, D.C. – United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) sent a letter 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 coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak.

“[T]he government and private sector must do as much as possible on a comprehensive basis to assist individuals struggling with access to school, work, and health care during the outbreak,” the lawmakers wrote.

Lack of reliable internet access at home harms students, workers, and patients. For example, transitioning to online learning poses problems for students who lack access to reliable internet. Those students are more likely to struggle to keep up with assignments, exposing the hard truth that too many households in this country are stuck on the wrong side of the digital divide.

This problem also extends to the millions of workers who have or will be asked to stay home or telecommute. Lack of access to reliable broadband at home will pose difficulties even for workers fortunate enough to have the option to continue working from home.

Effective telemedicine also depends on widespread access to broadband internet. Without it, health care providers will be unable to interact with prospective patients through connected care and the most disadvantaged individuals will be left without the same access to health care services as others.

“It is critical that we use every opportunity to keep American families healthy and stabilize the educational, economic, and social challenges that households and communities will face as the virus spreads,” the lawmakers wrote. “It is for this reason that we write to you seeking information on the FCC’s authority to expand access to broadband.”

Senators Warren and Markey have requested responses to their letter no later than March 26, 2020.

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. 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.

Senator Warren has also called for a $750 billion economic stimulus package that would focus on recovery from the grassroots up, not Wall Street down. Such a package would apply lessons from the 2008 bailout and provide direct help to families harmed by the COVID-19 outbreak, including universal paid leave, increasing Social Security benefits by $200 a month, broad cancellation of student loan debt, and protecting and expanding affordable housing.

Senator Warren has also worked to ensure that the Trump Administration is effectively responding to the outbreak. Her ongoing efforts include urging Vice President Pence to take swift, specific action to support Massachusetts and other states as they combat the spread of COVID-19; introducing legislation that would generate an estimated $10 billion in funding for coronavirus efforts by shifting funding from President Trump's border wall; and asking the CEOs of the U.S.-based "Too Big to Fail" banks how they are preparing to mitigate the economic risks of the outbreak.

For more information about the virus, please visit CDC’s website: For the latest information on the outbreak, visit CDC's Novel Coronavirus 2019 website.

Massachusetts-specific information about the coronavirus outbreak, including symptoms, prevention, and treatment, is available here.