New Bill Proposes $2B for Rural Broadband Discounts





InternetThis week, US senators introduced a bill aimed at providing funding for smaller, rural broadband providers so they can continue providing service during the coronavirus outbreak.

Senate Bill 3569, dubbed the Keeping Critical Connections Act, would provide $2 billion to providers via a fund through the Federal Communications Commission. Broadband providers with fewer than 250,000 subscribers could then be compensated for free or discounted services offered to low-income families during the current pandemic. Earlier this month a number  of broadband providers and telcos signed on to the FCC’s Keep Americans Connected Pledge aimed at ensuring residents and small businesses don’t lose internet access while the outbreak continues.

“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,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., the bill’s sponsor, said in a press release.

In all, more than a dozen senators are cosponsoring the bipartisan bill and the press release adds it’s also gained the support of  the 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).

“With millions of people required to stay home and students across the country learning from home, broadband access is essential. Small providers get it — the service they provide is a lifeline to parents and children who need to learn, work, and stay connected with loved ones during these difficult times. This bill ensures small providers can continue to provide their essential service during and after this crisis. We should pass this bipartisan bill immediately,” said Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., who, along with Rep. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., introduced a companion bill in the House of Representatives.

The bill has been referred to the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and we’ll keep you updated as we learn more.

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