Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.) have reintroduced the National Broadband Plan for the Future Act, to the applause of some cable operators.
Also Read: Sen. Markey Presses for Udated National Broadband Plan
The bill, which coincided with the 25th anniversary of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, would require the FCC to update its National Broadband Plan with the goal of universal connectivity.
It would require that updated plan to assess the progress made in the last decade, come up with "detailed proposals" for increased internet access, and gauge how the COVID-19 virus and its impact on how Americans "live, work and learn online" will reshape the country.
“The lack of universal access to affordable and high-speed internet worsens the existing inequities in society, especially now as so much of our personal and professional lives have moved online due to the pandemic,” said Eshoo. “From telehealth to remote learning to teleworking, high-speed internet is essential in our day-to-day lives. We must make broadband affordable and accessible for all Americans. That’s why I’m proud to reintroduce the National Broadband Plan for the Future Act to ensure all Americans have broadband.”
Eshoo on July 9, 2020, introduced the National Broadband Plan for the Future Act, which would require the FCC to update the plan with an eye toward both how the plan has delivered on its goal of, as the title said, "Connecting American, and how the coronavirus pandemic has "changed the online lives of Americans."
The FCC would have to explain how the revamped plan would "advance consumer welfare, civic participation, public safety and homeland security, community development, health care delivery, energy independence and efficiency, education, worker training, private sector investment, entrepreneurial activity, job creation and economic growth, among other "national purposes."
FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks called the broadband plan update "a great idea," adding that he was glad to see it focus on affordability.
ACA Connects President Matthew M. Polka was embracing the reintroduction of the bill.
“Government is at its best when it looks ahead at the long-term needs of the country and its citizens, identifies significant problems, and develops serious solutions to address these problems," said Polka.
“With so many working, learning, and socializing online for the past year, we have learned that our nation’s broadband infrastructure is robust, but that we need to do better. We need to update our universal service programs to connect everyone and maximize use of limited funds.
“We need to remove barriers to expedite deployments. We need to streamline outdated regulations and think twice about imposing new ones," he said, adding that he thought the bill would provide a "productive path forward."
The broadband plan czar who oversaw the FCC's first roadmap agreed that an update was needed.
“Every challenge our country faces – including handling COVID, stimulating an economic recovery, achieving social justice, and addressing climate – could be solved more effectively if we deploy networks everywhere, get everyone on, and use those networks more effectively to deliver essential services,” said Blair Levin, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the former executive director of the National Broadband Plan. “To meet the challenges of the next decade, we need a new National Broadband Plan that learns from the last decade for how to accelerate achieving those goals.”
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