FCC chair Ajit Pai has signaled he is asking ISPs to extend a portion of their Keep Americans Connected through the end of July, at least via deferred and extended payment plans, but is also supporting a legislative proposal to use taxpayer funds going forward.
The chairman sent a letter to Congress seeking funds via legislation to help keep consumers stay connected over the "coming months" after the pledge ends June 30. It was initially to have ended in May, then early June, but has already been extended twice.
"[B]roadband and telephone companies, especially small ones, cannot continue to provide service without being paid for an indefinite period of time; no business in any sector of our economy could. So I believe now is the time for legislation to ensure that doctors and patients, students and teachers, low-income families and veterans, those who have lost their jobs and livelihoods due to the pandemic and the accompanying lockdowns, those in our cities and those in the countryside—in short, all Americans—remain connected until this emergency ends.
Specifically, he is backing the Broadband Connectivity and Digital Equity Framework from Republicans Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee and Greg Walden (R-Ore.), which he calls a forward thinking proposal which would secure such connectivity.
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.
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