Democrats take universal broadband seriously


Congress this week approved a $ 7.17 billion connectivity emergency fund that schools and libraries will use to help people access the internet at home. The funds is part of the US $ 1.9 trillion bailout sent to President Biden on Wednesday after being approved by the House and Senate. Biden sign the bill in law Thursday.

The emergency fund is expected to help students who live in areas where broadband is available but cannot afford it. This emergency measure may just be a prelude to $ 94 billion broadband package that includes $ 80 billion to roll out broadband to areas of the United States that don’t have it.

Democrats introduced the $ 94 billion broadband initiative on Wednesday – it is not yet known whether or when it will pass, but such initiatives have a much better chance now that Democrats control the White House and both houses of the Congress. More details on the larger broadband bill are included later in this article.

With the $ 7.17 billion emergency fund, the Federal Communications Commission shall issue regulations within 60 days to carry out the instructions of Congress. Details on when and how the funding will be distributed are therefore not yet available. Interim President of the FCC, Jessica Rosenworcel mentionned the fund will be an important tool to close the “lack of homework“This leaves many children without adequate internet access.

“The lack of homework in the country has never been more evident than during this pandemic with the shift to distance learning”, Rosenworcel said wednesday. “So the adoption of the US bailout that would create the Emergency Connectivity Fund is good news. This is because millions of students are currently being excluded from the virtual classroom. They cannot do their homework. It’s the kids sitting outside the fast food restaurant just trying to grab a Wi-Fi signal to go to class. “

Rosenworcel said recent estimates show that “up to 17 million children” fall victim to lack of homework with up to a third of black, Latino, Native American and Alaskan native students not having internet access. broadband at home.

“The new funding can be used to pay for eligible equipment and services that schools and libraries will provide to students who need them,” Rosenworcel said.

Under the text of the new law, schools that get funding would distribute it to students and staff to pay for broadband service and equipment in “places that include places other than school.” Likewise, libraries would provide funding to clients for broadband access in “locations that include locations other than the library”.

Funding could be used for Internet service charges and equipment, including Wi-Fi access points, modems, routers, and “connected devices” such as laptops and tablets. The FCC will need to determine individual funding amounts, but the law allows reimbursement of up to 100% of “reasonable” costs.

The emergency fund would be available throughout the pandemic and for at least a year after the United States declares the public health emergency over. It would use money from the US Treasury instead of the FCC’s Universal Service Fund, which uses fees paid by phone subscribers to support the Electronic rate program for schools and libraries.

Separately, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-South Carolina) and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota), co-chair of the Senate Broadband Caucus, announced the $ 94 billion Internet law accessible and affordable for all Wednesday, saying it “will build high-speed infrastructure in unserved and underserved communities to shut down the Numeric fraction and ensuring Americans have an Internet connection to learn and work from home, access telehealth services, and stay in touch with loved ones. “

The bill includes “$ 80 billion to deploy broadband broadband infrastructure across the country … $ 5 billion over five years for low-interest financing of broadband deployment through a new secured loan program… an additional $ 6 billion for the newly created Broadband Connectivity Emergency Fund… $ 1 billion to establish grant programs for states to fill adoption gaps broadband, as well as digital inclusion projects for organizations and local communities to implement… $ 2 billion to enable students without internet at home to participate in distance learning, ”said.

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