WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Edward Markey (D-MA), Angus King (I-ME), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Bernie Sanders (I-VA), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) today announced plans that they will reintroduce the Community Broadband Act to improve internet access in underserved communities as millions of students and families find themselves struggling to learn and work remotely during the coronavirus public health emergency.
Specifically, the bill would ban any state, local, or tribal statute or regulation that prohibits cities from providing high-speed internet, thereby preserving and protecting the rights of cities and localities to build municipal broadband networks. Right now, more than two dozen states restrict local communities from building their own broadband networks. Municipal broadband can often provide an affordable, reliable option for rural and low-income communities that face persistent barriers to high-speed internet access.
“Internet access is an economic necessity in the best of times, and that need has only grown during the coronavirus emergency as millions of students and their families find themselves suddenly forced to work and learn remotely. Those without high-speed internet access are at a severe disadvantage,” Booker said. “We need to level the playing field. Our bill will help give cities the flexibility they need to meet the needs of their residents by removing onerous barriers to creating more municipal broadband networks.”
“During the coronavirus pandemic, we are relying on the internet more than ever in order to learn, work, and stay connected with our loved ones,” Markey said. “Unfortunately, too many families in America do not have the connectivity they need. Publicly-provided broadband networks are a critical tool for finally closing the digital divide. That’s why I’m proud to co-sponsor this vital legislation, which will empower local governments across the country to better serve and connect their residents.”
“Access to broadband is a must for communities to thrive in Oregon and nationwide. Oregon communities like Maupin and The Dalles have proven that municipal broadband can be a game changer in places without top-tier internet access,” Wyden said. “The COVID-19 public health crisis spotlights that need for high-speed Internet access more than ever for homes now filled with adults working remotely and students tapping into the web for classroom assignments. This legislation would provide help to those millions of Americans by knocking down obstacles to municipal broadband that can help now and in the future.”
“This vital legislation will give rural states like Vermont the tools to build out affordable and accessible broadband for telework, telehealth, and distance-learning needs,” Sanders said. “As we confront this pandemic, everybody now recognizes just how essential it is to have quality internet. Congress has got to expeditiously enact this bill into law to guarantee high-speed broadband to all Americans.”
“As the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed more and more workplaces and schools into digital environments, reliable, high-speed internet is vital for every community to thrive,” Gillibrand said. “Families, workers, and businesses who can’t access broadband are cut off from critical services and economic opportunities – it’s a necessity in the 21st century economy. I am proud to be an original cosponsor of this legislation which will give rural and low-income communities the flexibility they need to build out much-needed municipal broadband networks, and ensure families in New York and across the country have the resources they need to succeed now and in the future.”
The bill is endorsed by the following organizations: the National Association of Counties, the National League of Cities, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Public Knowledge, Free Press Action, the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Institute for Local Self Reliance, New America’s Open Technology Institute, Consumer Reports, the Telecommunications Industry Association, the Southern California Southern Tribal Chairmen’s Association, Ebay, and Google.