Reactions to the Accessible, Affordable, Internet for All Act

On June 24, House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-SC) and other House Reps introduced the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act (HR 7302) which invests $100 billion to build high-speed broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved communities and ensure that the resulting internet service is affordable.

House Majority Whip Clyburn: “Over a year ago, I formed the House Rural Broadband Task Force with the goal of bringing affordable high-speed internet to 100 percent of Americans. Since then, the disparity between those served and unserved has become clearer. In my home state alone, nearly 1 in 10 South Carolina households lack access to a reliable broadband connection. That is why I am proud that the Rural Broadband Task Force, in collaboration with members of the Energy and Commerce Committee, crafted the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act to address this issue once and for all.”

Benton Senior Fellow and Public Advocate Gigi Sohn: "The “Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act” is the right legislation at the right time as the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the need for every American to have robust, high speed broadband Internet access at home. This comprehensive bill addresses the twin problems of broadband affordability and lack of network infrastructure, recognizing that the digital divide is both an urban and a rural problem. And it would promote competition in the broadband market by preferencing open access networks and repealing anticompetitive state laws that prohibit communities from building their own broadband networks. The legislation is a culmination of many months of hard work by the House Rural Broadband Task Force staff, and in particular House Majority Whip Clyburn’s staff. Their process was inclusive and their responsiveness to suggestions and concerns was extraordinary. The result is a bill that will make great progress towards bringing Internet access to the over 140 million Americans who don’t currently have it. These Americans have gone far too long with a service that is essential to full participation in our economy, our education system, our culture and our democracy. Congress should pass this bill without delay." 

Michael Copps, Common Cause Special Adviser and Former FCC Commissioner “We commend Majority Whip Clyburn, the House Rural Broadband Task Force, and leadership in the House Energy and Commerce for introducing a comprehensive bill to ensure everyone is connected to affordable, high-speed, quality broadband. The legislation addresses all aspects of the digital divide by including provisions that would provide robust broadband access to communities that lack it, enable affordable options to connect low-income communities , and create digital equity programs to stem out long-standing disparities in broadband connectivity. For too long, we have talked about getting broadband out to everyone but are nowhere near getting the job done. Broadband remains unaffordable for millions of families; students lack connectivity at home to complete their homework, while millions more live in areas without any broadband access at all. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed many of the gaps in broadband connectivity we face today. Americans without broadband are unable to telework, engage in remote learning, access telehealth services, or stay in touch with their loved ones. Our democracy depends on everyone having access to robust and affordable broadband in order to participate in a 21st century society. Broadband is the connective tool that facilitates free expression, civic engagement, access to news and information, and host of essential services. Without broadband millions of Americans are being left behind in the digital age. We thank Majority Whip Clyburn and key House members and look forward to working with all members of Congress in ensuring this legislation is enacted to close the digital divide.”

Joshua Stager, senior counsel at New America's Open Technology Institute: “OTI is proud to support this bill, which would make internet service more accessible and affordable during COVID-19 and beyond. The bill would also end the FCC's regulatory war on Lifeline, remove barriers to municipal broadband networks, and make internet pricing transparent for the first time. These are all long overdue steps that would help millions of people. We applaud the Task Force for their work and urge Congress to pass this bill.”

Free Press Action Vice President of Policy and General Counsel Matt Wood: “The Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act is a landmark achievement, thanks to Representative Clyburn’s leadership, Speaker Pelosi’s commitment to closing the digital divide, and the compendium of great ideas flowing into this legislation from Energy and Commerce Committee leaders. While the innovative deployment and financing strategies designed to spur broadband buildout will rightly get a lot of attention, Free Press Action is especially grateful for the digital-equity, affordability and pricing-transparency provisions that are so essential to getting everyone online. Bridging the digital divide means recognizing that the vast majority of people disconnected today are offline because they can’t afford the high price of internet services in their communities. This affordability gap disproportionately impacts Black and Brown people, poorer communities, elderly populations and other groups at the intersections of systemic discrimination. They are the very same people and communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic hardships it has exacerbated and the digital divides it has deepened. The Clyburn bill contains truly progressive broadband-adoption supports and investments, mirrored in the HEROES Act and elsewhere. These provisions would offer people who cannot easily afford a connection up to $50 per month for the broadband service of their choosing. The bill also requires long-overdue collection of broadband-pricing data so that we can finally assess what people are paying for broadband, and understand where and when they’re priced out of this essential service. And it includes a host of important initiatives to invest in digital equity and inclusion, free up communities and local municipalities to consider building their own broadband networks and end many of the Trump FCC’s relentless attacks on the Lifeline program. Free Press Action looks forward to continued work with members on both sides of the aisle to make these kinds of smart public investments in broadband affordability and choice the law of the land. These investments couldn’t be more urgent: The COVID-19 crisis has illuminated internet-access and adoption injustices that policymakers have been all too reluctant to address until now.”

John Windhausen Jr., executive director of the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition: “We are extremely pleased to see the introduction of the comprehensive Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act, which would make a quantum leap forward toward closing the digital divide. For instance, it provides funding to ensure that all anchor institutions can get gigabit broadband, a long-sought goal of the 2010 National Broadband Plan. From allowing E-rate to cover Wi-Fi on school buses to promoting open access networks, the role anchors play in connecting American communities permeates the bill language. Unfortunately, the bill does not include long-term funding for the Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Health Care (RHC) Program, which means that healthcare providers will continue struggling to afford the broadband necessary for telehealth services. We hope that Congress will consider adding a provision to ensure that nonprofit healthcare providers can provide vital telehealth services to their communities.”

Reactions to the Accessible, Affordable, Internet for All Act Reactions to the Accessible, Affordable, Internet for All Act Rep. Clyburn Leads Introduction of $100B Broadband Bill (Multichannel News) House Democrats' Internet for All Act Takes Giant Strides Toward Closing the Digital Divide Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act Recognizes Key Role of Anchor Institutions in Closing Digital Divide (SHLB) Sohn Praises “Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act” (Sohn)