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House Democrats Urge Biden to Permanently Close Digital Divide

July 21, 2021 by Dan McCue
The U.S. Capitol. July 21, 2021 (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON – House Democrats are urging President Joe Biden to permanently close the nation’s digital divide by targeting federal investments in broadband to the hardest to reach areas, while also providing a permanent, federally-funded broadband benefit program to financially vulnerable families.

The effort is being spearheaded by Reps. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., Tony Cardenas, D-Calif., and Scott Peters, D-Calif., who led nearly 120 of their colleagues in signing a letter to Biden, explaining their position.

“Millions of Americans lack access to the internet. Some don’t have access due to lack of broadband infrastructure in their communities, while others simply cannot afford it,” Butterfield said. 

“The pandemic has highlighted the importance of broadband connectivity for all Americans. In order to provide equal opportunity for all Americans, a permanent broadband benefit is a crucial step to finally close the digital divide,”  he added.

Cárdenas noted that the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program has given many Americans the opportunity to get connected to internet service for the first time.

“It’s past time we implement permanent solutions that ensure low-income families and communities of color have continued access to the health, educational and economic benefits of the online world,” he said.

Without access to broadband service, millions of Americans are unable to participate in remote learning, working, telehealth and other essential activities.  

Smart investments in broadband infrastructure and a federally funded permanent broadband program to help financially vulnerable families purchase broadband service will close the digital divide, the letter writers said.

“Students and workers need high-speed, reliable internet access – and it needs to be affordable,” Peters said. “We should take the lessons we learned from the pandemic and apply them to our post-pandemic efforts to lower costs for broadband access. For our country to realize our 21st-century potential, we must ensure low-income communities can afford high-quality connectivity.”

Rice agreed, saying one thing the coronavirus pandemic made abundantly clear is that good Internet access is not a luxury, but  necessity.

“That is why the government should consider investing in a permanent broadband benefit program to ensure more American families get connected and fully participate in the modern economy”

To view the letter that was sent, click here.

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