Senators Wyden, Blumenthal, Hirono and Schumer Introduce Bill To Ensure Americans Keep Broadband Access During the Pandemic
Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) introduced a bill to ensure that millions of Americans can access essential broadband access 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. The bill would fill an essential need as the Federal Communications Commission’s voluntary Keep Americans Connected pledge by internet service providers to help consumers continue to access internet service during the pandemic ends June 30.
The legislation parallels provisions of the House HEROES Act, and the Emergency Broadband Connections Act by Rep Marc Veasey (D-TX). Specifically, the bill would:
—Entitle households in which a member has been laid off or furloughed to a $50 benefit (or $75 on tribal lands) to put toward the monthly price of internet service and require ISPs to serve eligible households at a price reduced by an amount up to the emergency benefit;
—Trigger eligibility based on qualification for the Lifeline program, the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), or Federal Pell Grants;
—Provide devices such as laptop or desktop computers or tablets to eligible households to ensure these families have the devices they need to look for a job, complete online homework assignments, or receive telehealth service;
—Require Lifeline service providers to make unlimited minutes and data available to those that currently rely on the Lifeline program to stay connected to phone or internet service, and provide additional support; and
—Provide funding to states to facilitate the linking of their SNAP databases with the FCC’s National Lifeline Verifier database, which will allow recipients of that program to automatically qualify for Lifeline.
Wyden, Blumenthal, Hirono and Schumer Introduce Bill To Ensure Americans Keep Broadband Access During the Pandemic Emergency Broadband Connections Act One Pager COVID-19-Related Broadband Funding Bill Introduced (Multichannel News)