Today, House Democrats introduced the “Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act” that, among other provisions, helps Americans access broadband — or stay connected — during the pandemic. The bill would provide broadband subsidies for low-income Americans and those financially impacted by COVID-19. Additionally, it would prevent broadband providers from shutting off broadband service, charging late fees, or imposing data caps during the crisis, and would offer funding for emergency connectivity to students and healthcare providers.
The bill follows Sen. Jeff Merkley’s (D-OR) introduction of “Continuing Online Networking, Negating Economic Conditions on Technology (CONNECT) At Home Act,” which would also prevent broadband providers from shutting off service. The bill also follows a recent letter from Public Knowledge and 217 other public interest and industry groups urging Congress to include affordable broadband in future coronavirus stimulus packages. Public Knowledge commends House Democrats and Sen. Merkley for championing broadband access for everyone during a time when no American can afford to be left behind.
The following can be attributed to Jenna Leventoff, Senior Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge:
“We commend House Democrats for leading the charge to help everyone get or stay connected during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although connectivity was critical before this pandemic, it is particularly critical when most Americans are being told to stay at home.
“This legislation contains key provisions to ensure that broadband is affordable to both those who could not afford it before the pandemic, and those who cannot afford it now. It also ensures that no one is cut off from this vital service due to an inability to pay and that students without broadband can get connected so that they don’t fall behind their peers during the pandemic.
“We encourage Congress to pass this package as well as additional legislation aimed at fully closing the digital divide once this pandemic ends. Just as no American should be forced to go without food, water, or electricity, no American should be forced to go without essential communications over broadband. Our nation must prioritize closing the digital divide both during the COVID-19 pandemic, and in the long term.”
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