Three Members of the U.S. House of Representatives today introduced a House version of the Digital Equity Act of 2019.
The bill, H.R. 4486, is initially sponsored by Representative Jerry McNerney of California; Representative Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico, Assistant House Speaker; and Representative Yvette D. Clarke of New York, Vice Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Like its Senate counterpart, introduced by Washington Senator Patty Murray in April, the House proposal would authorize up to $250 million a year in funding for state and community digital inclusion efforts. Half the proposed funding would support the development and implementation of comprehensive digital equity plans in each state. The other half would create an annual $125 million Digital Equity Competitive Grant Program to support digital inclusion projects undertaken by individual organizations and communities.
In a statement announcing the introduction of H. R. 4486 today, Congressman McNerney said:
Connectivity is an equalizer — it’s a gateway for opportunity, and it’s imperative for our nation’s economic growth Yet, there are too many people in my district and across the country who are being left behind because they can’t afford broadband service or they lack the necessary digital skills. Not having broadband service means that it’s much harder for a veteran to successfully apply for a job, for an entrepreneur with an innovative idea to put the idea into practice, for a student to complete his or her homework, and for an elderly person who is unable to leave his or her home to use telemedicine services. We are long overdue for closing gaps in broadband adoption and digital literacy. That’s why the Digital Equity Act is so critical.
NDIA Executive Director Angela Siefer says today’s announcement is especially welcome since it comes in time for Digital Inclusion Week 2019: “We really want to applaud Representatives McNerney, Clarke and Lujan for their leadership in putting this critical legislation on the House agenda. Now we look forward to educating our local communities about the Digital Equity Act during Digital Inclusion Week and beyond, and working with all our partners and affiliates to create a supportive environment for its provisions.”