Senators Cornyn, Manchin Introduce Bill to Expand Broadband Access to Unserved Rural Areas
The following joint press release was issued on October 1, 2020 by the offices of Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Joe Machin (D-WV)
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) today introduced the Eliminate the Digital Divide Act, which would empower states to carry out their own broadband programs that will incentivize internet service providers to build out broadband access in unserved areas and ensure transparency in and access to affordable broadband services for low-income individuals.
"As we increasingly depend on digital communication to work, learn, and stay connected, we must not leave those without access to broadband in the dark," said Sen. Cornyn. "This bill will help bridge the digital divide and ensure Texans have access to more affordable broadband options across the state. Allowing governors, not bureaucrats in Washington, to direct broadband dollars is crucial to ensuring Texans are connected."
“We all know access to reliable broadband is vital for small businesses, healthcare, students, and families, but West Virginia and rural America are still being left behind,” said Sen. Manchin. “The Eliminate the Digital Divide Act would distribute $10 billion equally based on each state’s total of underserved areas, not just to the easiest and least costly areas. In fact, this bill includes $1 billion for high cost areas like West Virginia with mountainous terrain and other complicating factors so they can receive their fair share of funding to expand broadband coverage. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join our legislation and help bring broadband access to every American, no matter where they live.”
The Eliminate the Digital Divide Act would:
- Address the Rural Digital Divide by creating a $10 billion State Broadband Program where governors receive funds based on the number unserved individuals in their state. Governors will partner with broadband service providers to build out networks to their unserved individuals.
- State programs must be technology neutral, with streamlined requirements and regulations to enable both small and large broadband partners to apply.
- States will partner with broadband entities to build in unserved areas within 3 years of receiving awards.
- Encourages swift build out by accelerating access to poles and rights of way in a timely and cost-efficient manner.
- Address the Urban/ Low-Income Digital Divide by providing a platform for consumers to access information on the broadband options available to them.
- Amends the Broadband DATA Act to require the FCC to also collect data from broadband service providers on any low-income service options offered to their subscribers.
- The platform would provide consumers with the capability to enter their own financial information and see if they qualify for any state or federal subsidy programs (like Lifeline) and how to apply for that program.
The Eliminate the Digital Divide Act is supported by Connected Nation.