The “Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act” (HR 7302) proposes a $100 billion package of broadband-related expenditures which mirror the “Plan to Connect All Americans to Affordable Broadband Internet” released on May 1. Its introduction today by Congressmen James Clyburn of South Carolina, the House Majority Whip, and more than two dozen colleagues was part of House leadership’s rollout of an overall $1.5 trillion infrastructure spending plan called the “Moving Forward Act”.
In addition to $80 billion for new broadband infrastructure projects in unserved and underserved rural areas, the package includes:
- About $9 billion for a new “broadband benefit” program that would reimburse internet providers for discounts provided to low-income households (eligible for Lifeline or federal school lunch subsidies) and consumers who are recently unemployed. Bills for normal home internet service could be subsidized as much as $50 a month ($75 for households on tribal lands.) This was originally proposed as an emergency measure in the COVID relief bill (the “HEROES Act”) passed by the House in May, which is still awaiting any action in the Senate.
- $1.3 billion over five years for state and community digital inclusion initiatives, These include the State Digital Equity Capacity Program, an annual grant program for states to create and implement comprehensive digital equity plans to help close gaps in broadband adoption and digital skill; and the Digital Equity Competitive Grant Program to further support these efforts through digital inclusion projects undertaken by local communities.
Today’s proposal also includes money to help local schools’ efforts to invest in home connectivity for students and staff; protections against state restrictions for communities seeking to build their own broadband networks; and a requirement for the FCC to start collecting and publishing residential internet price information from all broadband providers.
NDIA Executive Director Angela Siefer praised the new bill. “The COVID-19 crisis has made the whole country aware that tens of millions of our neighbors still lack basic internet connections, and they live in communities of all kinds – big cities, small towns, suburban as well as rural communities. This bill is an historic effort to address all the causes of our persistent digital divide. It includes a substantial investment to extend high speed internet access to areas that that don’t have it now while also addressing adoption of broadband service. This bill creates a federal broadband benefit to make access affordable to everyone, help states and communities fund digital inclusion initiatives, and require the FCC and providers to make the price of home broadband service transparent and public. These are all vital steps toward digital equity for all Americans.”