WASHINGTON – U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Greg Walden (R-OR) and Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS) today released principles for a legislative framework to expand broadband access and digital opportunity and close the digital divide. This framework would serve as a foundation for legislative efforts related to the COVID-19 economic recovery, modernizing the nation’s communications infrastructure, allowing all Americans, regardless of where they live, to participate in the digital economy, and enhancing U.S. network security, reliability, and resiliency.
“Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 21 million Americans did not have access to broadband services. The need to deploy broadband, bridge the digital divide, and close the homework gap have been highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic as Americans work, learn, and receive health care from their homes,” said Walden. “I am proud to work with Chairman Wicker on a bicameral broadband and digital equity framework that will make meaningful strides toward expanding access to vital broadband services, securing networks, and closing the digital divide for all Americans. We must work to connect all Americans and maintain U.S. leadership on next-generation technologies.”
“The coronavirus pandemic has made expanding access to broadband even more urgent,” said Wicker. “This framework would support the delivery of these services by fostering investment, promoting broadband deployment, and enhancing network security and resiliency. I thank Ranking Member Walden for working with me to help expand reliable broadband connection to all Americans.”
The Broadband Connectivity and Digital Equity Framework would:
- Close the Digital Divide by:
- Authorizing funding to complete accurate broadband mapping efforts and deploy broadband quickly in areas throughout the United States to make sure all Americans are connected;
- Ensuring that children have access to be able to complete their homework remotely;
- Establishing programs so that anyone experiencing economic hardship as a result of the COVID pandemic remains connected and knows what resources are available;
- Expanding broadband access and digital opportunity in minority communities to promote digital equity; and,
- Working with our nation’s carriers, who have worked tirelessly to keep Americans connected during the COVID pandemic, to make sure they are able to continue responding to their consumers quickly and safely.
- Provide Regulatory Relief through streamlining permitting processes for telecommunications infrastructure and equipment to promote broadband deployment, job creation, and investment in next-generation communications networks.
- Enhance Public Health, Safety, and Network Security by:
- Authorizing funding to fully implement the Secure and Trusted Communications Act, Public Law No: 116-124, and invest in the deployment of open radio access network technologies;
- Investing in our 9-1-1 communications infrastructure; and,
- Ensuring that the Federal Communications Commission’s telehealth program has the necessary resources to make sure health care facilities have the appropriate technologies to treat patients remotely.