Groups Petition Congress for Broadband Billions During Pandemic

Backed, virtually, by a couple of powerful senators, a dozen internet access activist groups have generated over 110,000 signatures on a petition to Congress to include funds in the next COVID-19 aid bill to make sure every American has internet and phone service during the pandemic. But they suggest that is necessary because of discriminatory ISP policies. 

The senators are Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) 

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The groups backing the petition are Access Now, Common Sense Media, Consumer Reports, Demand Progress, Fight for the Future, Free Press Action, Libraries Without Borders, MediaJustice, the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, New America’s Open Technology Institute and Public Knowledge. 

At the urging of FCC chairman Ajit Pai, over 700 ISPs have pledged not to cut off broadband subs for nonpayment or extend low-cost broadband to more people. Pai has praised those and other efforts.  

Related: Comcast Extends Connectivity Pledge

But the senators appear more focused on demanding service and hammering ISPs, even as they call for money to fund those essential service providers. 

"The cost of broadband is so high and the broadband-providers’ policies are so discriminatory that even before the crisis began and millions lost their sources of income, more than one-fifth of households nationwide didn’t have home internet,” reads the petition. “Internet and phone access should be affordable public services — like water and electricity. We demand that you provide the billions of dollars needed to get and keep people connected to broadband and phone services during the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic crisis." 

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.