The National Digital Inclusion Alliance today joined 216 other public interest, government, industry, civil rights, rural advocacy, and academic groups — alongside schools and libraries — in a letter to Congressional leaders calling for forthcoming COVID-19 stimulus packages to include support for access to affordable broadband internet.

At the same time, an NDIA-supported campaign called #Right2Connect submitted petitions with more than 100,000 individuals’ signatures to Members of Congress, calling on Congress and the Federal Communications Commission to “immediately expand broadband and telephone access in response to the public health crisis”.

NDIA Executive Director Angela Siefer said the letter and petitions show broad public support for immediate federal action:  “The U.S. is in dire need of a broadband subsidy. The free and low-cost plans of some internet service providers are appreciated but the gaps in eligibility and availability are significant. Lifeline, first and foremost, provides phone support, not broadband support. Students learning in parking lots due to a lack of home internet is completely unacceptable. We must establish a federal broadband subsidy immediately.”

Here’s the full text of the letter to Congressional leaders. Download a copy with the names of all 217 signers here.

Dear Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader McCarthy, and Minority Leader Schumer,

We, the undersigned, urge you to support access to affordable broadband internet in forthcoming COVID-19 stimulus package(s). Tens of millions of Americans don’t have broadband internet at home. Low-income families, rural residents, and people of color are particularly affected, leaving our most vulnerable communities struggling to stay connected with school, work, healthcare, entertainment, and their loved ones during the COVID-19 crisis.

To make matters worse, more than 26 million Americans and counting have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, and millions more have likely had their hours and pay reduced. These individuals may struggle to pay their broadband bills — if broadband is available to them at all.

During a time when communication tools have never been more critical, and unemployment has never been so high, Congress must enact policies to ensure that everyone has broadband internet. Broadband is crucial for keeping residents home, safe, and as connected with everyday life as possible during these trying times. Broadband enables people to work remotely, access medical care, and apply for government benefits. As all levels of education and training transition online for the foreseeable future, reliable internet access is essential for students to be successful. Perhaps most importantly, broadband allows residents who are isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic to stay informed, entertained, and connected with loved ones while protecting public health.

Like food, water, and electricity, everyone needs broadband internet service during this unprecedented crisis. That is why Congress must include policies that support broadband availability, including increased funding for adoption, network sustainability, and deployment for areas still lacking access, in upcoming stimulus packages.