WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, co-chair of the Senate Broadband Caucus, announced that several of her key broadband priorities were included in the year-end omnibus package passed by the Senate and expected to be signed into law. These provisions include funding to ensure students with the greatest financial need have access to high-speed internet based off Klobuchar’s Supporting Connectivity for Higher Education Students in Need Act and funding to implement the Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability (DATA) Act, bipartisan legislation to improve the accuracy of the FCC’s broadband availability maps which was signed into law in March.
“In 2020, every family in America should have access to high-speed internet, regardless of their zip code,” Klobuchar said. “The pandemic has exposed how critical broadband is to staying connected to work, school, health care and more. These provisions will help bring us closer to ensuring all Americans have access to high speed internet by improving the broadband data collection process and connecting our college students with the greatest financial need to vital internet services.”
The following provisions were included:
- Connecting College and University Students in Need: The provision includes funding to ensure college students with the greatest financial need have access to high-speed internet based-off the Supporting Connectivity for Higher Education Students in Need Act. The package includes $285 million funding for historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), Tribal colleges and universities (TCUs), Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs) and other minority-serving institutions (MSIs), their students, and minority-owned businesses near those colleges and universities.
- The funding can be used to purchase routers, modems, wi-fi hotspots, tablets, and laptops. Funding recipients must prioritize students eligible for the Pell Grant or the FCC’s Lifeline program; approved to receive unemployment insurance benefits; currently receiving other need-based financial aid; or earning less than 150 percent of the federal poverty level (i.e., $39,300 for a family of four in the contiguous U.S.). The legislation also allows for connectivity funding for minority-owned businesses near those higher education institutions and establishes the Office of Minority Broadband Initiatives within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to carry out programs to expand access to broadband at and in communities around HBCUs, TCUs, HSIs and other MSIs.
- Improving FCC’s Broadband Data maps: The provision includes $65 million for funding to implement the Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability (DATA) Act to improve the accuracy of the FCC’s broadband availability maps by improving the process by which broadband data is collected, which was signed into law in March 2020.