A handful of U.S. Senators has introduced the Keeping Critical Connections Act to help small broadband providers ensure rural broadband connectivity for students and their families during the coronavirus pandemic.
This is one of several attempts by the government, industry groups and carriers to keep the lines of communications open, especially as consumers are asked to shelter in place, as Telecompetitor has reported.
The Keeping Critical Connections Act, was co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND), along with Tina Smith (D-MN), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Steve Daines (R-MT), Doug Jones (D-AL), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Jon Tester (D-MT), John Barrasso (R-WY), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Todd Young (R-IN) and Gary Peters (D-MI).
Keeping Critical Connections Act
The proposed legislation would appropriate $2 billion for a fund at the FCC. The fund would compensate small broadband providers with fewer than 250,000 customers for broadband services—if they provided free or discounted broadband services or upgrades—during the pandemic for low-income families who could not afford to pay their bills or to provide distance learning capability for students. The bill is endorsed by NTCA—the Rural Broadband Association, WTA – Advocates for Rural Broadband, Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA), the Minnesota Telecommunications Alliance, and the Broadband Association of North Dakota (BAND).
“Access to high speed internet is critical for students and their families during the coronavirus outbreak,” Sen. Klobuchar said in a prepared statement. “The Keeping Critical Connections Act would help small broadband providers continue offering free or discounted broadband services to families and students in rural areas to ensure they remain connected to school, work, and their communities during this period of economic turmoil caused by the coronavirus pandemic.”
“The federal government asked this essential industry to keep providing assistance to people during COVID—19, and they answered the call,” Sen. Cramer added, in a prepared statement. “The least we can do is make sure they are made whole when this pandemic is over.”
Representatives Peter Welch (D-VT-AL) and Roger Marshall (R-KS-01) are introducing companion legislation in the House of Representatives.