Democrats get serious about universal broadband

Congress this week approved a $ 7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund that will use schools and libraries to help people gain Internet access at home. The fund is part of the $ 1.9 billion US rescue plan Sent to President Biden on Wednesday after being approved by the House and Senate. Biden signed the bill Thursday.

The emergency fund should help students who live in areas where broadband is available but cannot afford it. This emergency measure can only be a prelude to a $ 94 billion broadband package that includes $ 80 billion to deploy high-speed broadband to parts of the U.S. that do not have it.

Democrats introduced the $ 94 billion broadband initiative on Wednesday – it is not yet clear if it will succeed, but such initiatives have a much better chance now that Democrats control the White House and both chambers of Congress. More information on the larger broadband account is contained later in this article.

With the $ 7.17 billion emergency fund, the Federal Communications Commission will have to issue regulations within 60 days to carry out Congress’ mandates. Details on when and how the financing will be distributed are therefore not yet available. FCC Acting President Jessica Rosenworcel said the fund will be an important tool in reducing the ‘homework gap’ that leaves many children without adequate internet access.

“The nation’s homework gap has never been so clear as during this pandemic with the move to distance education,” Rosenworcel said. Said Wednesday. “So, the implementation of the US rescue plan that would create the emergency fund for emergency connectivity is welcome news. This is because millions of students are currently locked out of the virtual classroom. They can not do daily schoolwork. It is the children who sit outside of the fast food restaurant just trying to get a Wi-Fi signal to go to class. ‘

Rosenworcel said recent estimates show that “as many as 17 million children” are victims of the homework gap, with up to a third of black, Latino, Indian and Alaska students not having quick access to the Internet at home.

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

According to the text of the new law, schools that receive money will distribute it to students and staff to pay for broadband service and equipment in ‘places that do not include the school.’ Similarly, libraries will provide customers with funding for broadband access in ‘places that include places other than the library’.

The funding can be used for Internet service fees and equipment, including Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers and ‘connected devices’ such as laptops and tablets. The FCC will have to determine individual funding amounts, but the law allows for reimbursement of up to 100 percent of the “reasonable” costs.

The emergency fund will be available throughout the pandemic and for at least one year after the US declares that the public health emergency is over. It uses money from the US Treasury instead of the Universal Service Fund of the FCC, which uses fees paid by telephone subscribers to the E-rate program for schools and libraries.

Separately, House majority whip James Clyburn (D-South Carolina) and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota), chairman of the Senate Broadband Caucus, announced the $ 94 billion. Accessible, affordable internet for everyone Said Wednesday it will build a high-speed broadband infrastructure in underserved and underserved communities to close the digital divide and ensure Americans have Internet connections to learn and work from home, access telecommunications health services and connect stay with loved ones. ‘

The bill includes’ $ 80 billion for the implementation of high-speed broadband infrastructure nationwide … $ 5 billion over five years to finance low-interest use of broadband implementation through a new secured lending program … a an additional $ 6 billion for the newly established Emergency Broadband Connection Fund … $ 1 billion to establish grant programs for states to close gaps in broadband acceptance, as well as digital inclusion projects for organizations and local communities to … $ 2 billion to enable students without internet at home to participate in distance education, “reads a press release from Klobuchar’s office.

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