ST. PAUL — U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., have teamed up to urge the Trump Administration to dedicate federal funding for small broadband providers that serve low-income households during the coronavirus pandemic.
As millions of Americans living under stay-at-home orders are distance learning and teleworking, the senators in their Thursday, April 23 letter said many small broadband providers have committed to maintaining service to low-income families unable to pay their internet bills through the pandemic. But the providers then take a financial hit themselves, which is unsustainable for them.
If those small broadband providers go under, their customers' internet connections, as well as the providers' 77,000 jobs and $10 billion of economic activity nationwide, are on the line.
"Since the onset of the pandemic, unemployment claims have surged and states across the country have closed schools in an effort to limit the spread of the virus, leaving students and families to rely on internet connectivity to work, learn from home, search for employment, and access telehealth services," the senators wrote.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act appropriated funds for rural broadband expansion, but not small providers, according to the senators.
Thursday's letter comes after Klobuchar and Cramer, along with others, introduced the Keeping Critical Connections Act in March, which would appropriate $2 billion for an emergency fund through the Federal Communications Commission dedicated to small broadband providers. In addition to Thursday's letter to the White House, the senators wrote a similar letter to congressional leadership earlier this month.