Thirty House and Senate Democrats unveiled a new $94 billion proposal to make broadband Internet access more accessible and affordable nationwide, aiming to remedy some of the digital inequalities that have kept millions of Americans offline during the coronavirus pandemic. The new effort, chiefly authored by Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), marks one of the most expensive, ambitious broadband packages proposed in recent years.
Federal and state officials said Wednesday that the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed grave disparities in education and the digital divide, posing challenges at all levels of government. “The laptops that many of our schools are providing, if you aren’t able to connect that somewhere, you still have a problem,” said Rep Alma Adams (D-NC), a member of the House Education and Labor Committee.
Many states have their own offices focusing on rural broadband, and there is very little coordination between those offices, and the many federal agencies responsible for elements of internet connectivity extension. President Joe Biden and Congressional leaders can include language that ensures that better coordination leads to faster deployment of rural broadband solutions. It is not as if there has been no work done on this to date. The Federal Communications Commission has been working on this issue for years, and some progress has been made.