Legislators Push for $2B in Broadband Bucks

The bipartisan legislators urging big broadband bucks for small broadband operators in the next COVID-19 aid package have written to their respective leadership to put an exclamation point on that push. 

Penning the letter were Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) and Reps. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and Roger Marshall (R-Kan.). 

Klobuchar and Cramer introduced a House bill two weeks ago to set aside $2 billion in the next bill for rural broadband connectivity. Welch and Marshall introduced a Senate version.  

Related: Dems Seek Distance Learning Dollars in Next COVID-19 Aid Bill 

“In recent weeks, unemployment claims have surged, and schools across the country have closed in an effort to limit the spread of coronavirus, leaving many Americans—including low-income families and students—without critical internet connectivity," they said. "Many small broadband providers have committed to continue providing voice and broadband services and upgrades despite ongoing economic hardships facing many Americans,” the members of Congress wrote." 

Many large and mid-sized operators have pledged that as well, in part at the urging of the FCC. But the smaller companies have less margin if those customers can't pay for a prolonged period of time, the legislators pointed out.  

The bill would create a $2 billion FCC fund that could be paid out to the smaller operators for ongoing free or discounted service to low-income residents. 

Getting the letter were Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

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.