Today, a bipartisan, bicameral package for COVID-19 relief was introduced. Among other provisions, the relief bill helps Americans access broadband — or stay connected — during the pandemic.
The bill provides $3.2 billion in broadband subsidies for low-income Americans and those financially impacted by COVID-19 to not only cover the monthly service amount, but also up to $100 for use of a laptop, desktop, or tablet. The bill will also provide $1 billion for Tribal land connectivity. These provisions enable broadband providers to offer a $50 subsidy ($75 on Tribal lands) to help those in need who are already eligible for the Federal Communications Commission’s Lifeline program stay connected to this essential service during the pandemic. This program also extends the $50 subsidy to families eligible for free school lunches or college Pell Grants, as well as to those who have lost jobs during the crisis. Additionally, the bill will provide funding for mapping and telehealth services, among other things.
The stimulus bill follows several months of advocacy from Public Knowledge, including a letter from 218 public interest and industry groups urging Congress to include affordable broadband in future coronavirus stimulus packages. Public Knowledge commends the hard work of all involved in these negotiations who championed funding broadband access for the vulnerable during a time when no American can afford to be left behind.
The following can be attributed to Greg Guice, Government Affairs Director at Public Knowledge:
“This stimulus package will prove to be a lifeline for consumers struggling to afford their broadband connection while the pandemic rages on. Connectivity is especially vital during this critical time, as Americans continue working and learning from home. These subsidies will directly support those experiencing financial loss during the crisis, as affordability remains the key barrier to connectivity.
“Although we’re disappointed that Congress did not provide funding to keep students connected as they study from home, these broadband subsidies will still benefit students and families at risk of losing their connectivity. We hope the Federal Communications Commission will use its E-rate program to address the needs of students under a Biden Administration so they don’t fall behind their peers from no fault of their own.
“No American should be forced to go without food, water, electricity, or essential communications over broadband. We urge Congress to pass this bill to keep everyone connected while we continue working on closing the digital divide.”
You may view our recent letter urging Congress to provide broadband subsidies for consumers during the pandemic.
Members of the media may contact Communications Director Shiva Stella with inquiries, interview requests, or to join the Public Knowledge press list at firstname.lastname@example.org or 405-249-9435.