Welch offers plan to close digital divide and expand broadband to all Americans

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Welch offers plan to close digital divide and expand broadband to all Americans

Thu, 04/30/2020 - 5:23pm -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine Representative Peter Welch today joined House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) and 10 other members of the Rural Broadband Task Force and Energy and Commerce Committee, to announce the House Democratic Plan to Connect All Americans to Affordable Broadband Internet. This plan—an updated and expanded version of the broadband provisions of House Democrats’ Moving America Forward Framework—is the product of significant collaboration between the Rural Broadband Task Force, the Energy & Commerce Committee, and many Members of the House Democratic Caucus. 

Democrats welcome recent reports that Republicans support the inclusion of broadband investment in the next coronavirus response packages. This plan will accomplish the goal of delivering affordable access to high-quality internet to all Americans.

“With millions of people required to stay home and students across the country learning from home, this pandemic has sharpened the digital divide that exists across America,” said Representative Welch. “We need to act now to close this divide and connect all Americans with high-speed, affordable broadband. Our students, health care providers, business owners, and farmers need high-speed internet to survive in the modern economy. I am pleased to work with Whip Clyburn and members of the Rural Broadband Task Force to move this plan forward.”

Welch is a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Rural Broadband Taskforce, and is co-founder of the House Rural Broadband Caucus.  

House Democratic Plan to Connect All Americans to Affordable Broadband Internet

Invest in Internet Infrastructure
• Deploy High-Speed Broadband – Invests $80 billion over five years to deploy secure and resilient broadband infrastructure to expand access for communities nationwide, connecting unserved and underserved rural, suburban, and urban areas across the country while prioritizing persistent poverty communities.
• Offer Low-Interest Financing for Broadband Deployment – Invests $5 billion over five years for low-interest financing of broadband deployment through a new program that would allow eligible entities to apply for secured loans, lines of credit, or loan guarantees to finance broadband infrastructure build out projects.
• Dig Once – Promotes the installation of broadband conduit during the construction of any road receiving federal funding to facilitate the building of broadband network infrastructure.
• Invest Federal Funds Efficiently – Establishes the Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, responsible for coordinating with other federal agencies to streamline the application processes for broadband funding programs; ensure that broadband-related support is being administered in an efficient, technology-neutral, and financially sustainable manner; and track all federal money used for construction and use of broadband infrastructure.

Ensure Internet Affordability
• Promote Competition – Gives preference in awarding funding to broadband builds that will provide open access to new infrastructure to allow additional providers to use taxpayer funded infrastructure on fair terms to provide more options to consumers.
• Require an Affordable Option – Requires internet service providers whose networks are built with new federal funding to offer at least one affordable option.
• Enhance Payment Support – Increases existing payment support for consumers, expands eligibility for and applicability of support, and eliminates barriers to helping low-income and recently unemployed Americans afford broadband access.
• Protect Local Options – Guarantees the right of local governments, public-private partnerships, and cooperatives to deliver broadband service, which has lowered prices in many communities.
• Gather Pricing Data – Directs the Federal Communications Commission to collect data on prices charged for broadband service throughout the country and make that data widely available with appropriate privacy protections.
• Learn More Information – Directs the Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth to conduct a study on the extent to which cost remains a barrier to broadband adoption and the feasibility of providing additional targeted federal subsidies to offset costs for low-income households.

Enable Internet Adoption
• Promoting Broadband Adoption and Digital Skills – Provides over $1 billion to establish the State Digital Equity Capacity Program, an annual grant program for states to create and implement comprehensive digital equity plans to help close gaps in broadband adoption and digital skills, and to also establish the Digital Equity Competitive Grant Program to further support these efforts through digital inclusion projects undertaken by individual organizations and local communities.
• Lend Mobile Hotspots – Provides for the rapid deployment of mobile hotspots and other internet-connected devices to enable students without internet at home to participate in remote learning and complete homework assignments requiring an internet connection.
Connect School Buses – Authorizes funding for Wi-Fi on school buses so that students can be connected, especially in rural areas where long bus rides are common.

The full plan also can be found here.

Source: WASHINGTON – Welch 4.30.2020