WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), co-chair of the Senate Broadband Caucus, and House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-SC) introduced comprehensive bicameral broadband infrastructure legislation to expand access to affordable high-speed internet for all Americans. The Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act will invest over $94 billion to build high-speed broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved communities to close the digital divide and ensure Americans have internet connectivity to learn and work from home, access telehealth services, and stay connected to loved ones.
In the Senate, the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act is cosponsored by Senators Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Mark Warner (D-VA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), and Ron Wyden (D-OR). In the House, Majority Whip Clyburn was joined by members of the House Rural Broadband Task Force.
“When we invest in broadband infrastructure, we invest in opportunity for all Americans,” said Senator Klobuchar. “In 2021, we should be able to bring high-speed internet to every family in America — regardless of their zip code. This legislation will help bridge the digital divide once and for all.”
“Access to broadband today will have the same dramatic impact on rural communities as the rural electrification efforts in the last century,” said Whip Clyburn. “When I formed the Rural Broadband Task Force, our mission was to address the digital divide. The disparate effects of that divide have been amplified during the COVID-19 pandemic and exposed the urgency of ensuring universal access to high-speed internet. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House and Senate to enact the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act.”
The Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act will:
- Encourage Universal Broadband Access by:
- Authorizing $80 billion to deploy high-speed broadband infrastructure nationwide;
- Allocating $5 billion over five years for low-interest financing of broadband deployment through a new secured loan program; and
- Establishing a new office within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to ensure efficient use of federal money.
- Ensure Internet Affordability by:
- Requiring an affordable option for internet service plans offered on the newly-built infrastructure funded by the legislation;
- Authorizing an additional $6 billion for the recently established Emergency Broadband Connectivity Fund, which provides a $50 monthly discount on the internet plans for low-income Americans anywhere in the country, or $75 for consumers on tribal lands; and
- Directing the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to collect and publicize data on prices charged for broadband service throughout the country.
- Promote Internet Adoption by:
- Providing over $1 billion to establish grant programs for states to close gaps in broadband adoption, as well as digital inclusion projects for organizations and local communities to implement;
- Including $2 billion to enable students without internet at home to participate in remote learning; and
- Authorizing funding for Wi-Fi on school buses so students can stay connected, especially in rural areas where longer bus rides are common.
The Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act is endorsed by Public Knowledge, Free Press, National Consumer Law Center, New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute, Consumer Reports, the Schools, Health, Libraries, and Broadband Coalition (SHLB), Common Cause, Benton Institute for Broadband and Society, Leadership Conference, Access Now, Electronic Frontier Foundation, National Digital Inclusion Alliance, National Education Association, National Defense Industrial Association, Communications Workers of America, North America’s Building Trades Union, and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
As a senior member of the Senate Commerce Committee and co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Broadband Caucus, Klobuchar has long championed closing the digital divide and expanding internet access.
In December 2020, several of her key broadband priorities were included in the year-end omnibus package passed by the Senate and signed into law. These provisions included funding to:
- Ensure students with the greatest financial need can access high-speed internet (based off of Klobuchar’s Supporting Connectivity for Higher Education Students in Need Act);
- 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 of 2020; and
- Ensure federal funds for broadband deployment target unserved and underserved areas by directing with the FCC, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to coordinate and share information on their broadband deployment efforts. (Klobuchar’s bipartisan legislation, the Broadband Interagency Coordination Act, was with Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS).)
“The COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear: Broadband is essential. In rural and Tribal communities, digital equity is urgently needed to address longstanding disparities that impact the way Americans learn, work, and do business. I was proud to work on and pass this bill with Whip Clyburn in the House last Congress, and I’m proud to join Senator Klobuchar in reintroducing the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act to bridge the digital divide, invest in broadband, and help connect Americans,” said Senator Luján (D-NM). “As Chair of the Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Media, and Broadband, I look forward to working with my colleagues to find innovative solutions to finally close the digital divide.”
“I am proud to join Sen. Klobuchar and House Majority Whip Clyburn in introducing the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how drastic the digital divide is in America. This bill makes the kind of investment necessary to our broadband infrastructure that will help us expand economic opportunity, bring service to underserved areas, and maintain our competitive-edge on the world stage,” said Senator Durbin (D-IL).
“Broadband has been a critical lifeline during the pandemic, making it possible to work and learn remotely, see a doctor without leaving home, and stay connected with relatives. But right now, too many families from underserved communities face barriers to getting online and are falling behind," said Senator Schatz (D-HI). "Our bill will help close the digital divide and make sure everyone has fast, affordable internet access."
“The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted, more than ever, how essential broadband is to the future of American life, education, jobs, and medical care,” said Senator Markey (D-MA). “Yet, for millions of Americans – disproportionally from communities of color, low-income households, and rural areas – reliable and affordable connectivity is not available. To bridge this digital divide, we need to provide billions of dollars in new funding for broadband infrastructure and affordability assistance, with equitable investments targeted toward our most vulnerable populations. The Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act will achieve these goals, and I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing this critical legislation.”
“The COVID-19 crisis has made clear the realities of the digital divide affecting far too many families in Nevada and across the nation,” said Senator Rosen (D-NV). “We must address this technological disparity to ensure Nevadans in every community are able to work and learn from home, search for employment, access public benefits, and obtain telehealth services to protect their health. I will continue working to improve our nation’s broadband in order to improve the lives of Americans.”
“This pandemic has accentuated long-standing inequities among hardworking Georgian, and American, families,” said Senator Warnock (D-GA). “From students to farmers to small business owners, expanding accessible, affordable internet and strengthening rural broadband will improve local economies, help students excel in a rapidly changing online learning landscape and allow farmers to adapt to agriculture innovations emerging from our state. The tremendous difference rural broadband will make cannot be overstated—and this legislation is an important step in the right direction.”
“The continuing health crisis has only underscored what we already know: that too many households across the country lack reliable access to broadband. In Virginia alone, it’s estimated that more than 700,000 Virginians lack access to broadband, making it harder for families to access essential services during these unprecedented times. Access to broadband helps communities meaningfully participate in the digital economy. Individuals can apply for a job or submit a college application, families can connect with their health care providers without having to travel long distances, and teachers and students can advance and supplement their online learning,” said Senator Warner (D-VA). “Accessibility to broadband is vital to increasing digital literacy, achieving economic stability, and advancing education, and this critical legislation will help bridge the gap for communities that still need access to this critical technology.”
“Despite the fact that access to the internet is a necessity for everything from education to access to health care, the digital divide continues to be a barrier to opportunity for entire communities,” said Senator Booker (D-NJ). “This legislation will make a much needed investment in broadband infrastructure to help ensure that all communities have reliable and affordable access to the internet.”
"Our current public health and economic crisis has made it all the more urgent that we get affordable, high-speed broadband to every home and business in our country. Congress needs to pass the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act to ensure every family can access school, work, and health care through the internet,” said Senator Warren (D-MA).
“We’ve seen during this pandemic how critical broadband access is to families, small businesses, and health care providers in Nevada and all over the country,” said Senator Cortez Masto (D-NV). “Whether you’re attending school, calling in to a work teleconference, or consulting a doctor during a telehealth session, you need quality internet access you can rely on. This bill would strengthen internet access and expand digital literacy in both rural areas and cities.”
"In my town halls across Oregon, I've seen first-hand how reliable broadband can lift up rural towns. And I’ve seen how rural and lower-income communities without first-class infrastructure are being left behind. Senator Klobuchar and Congressman Clyburn's legislation is a strong package that would ensure all Americans can depend on broadband for critical access to work, education, healthcare and everything else. I'm also pleased they included an additional $6 billion for the Emergency Broadband Benefit I helped craft, to keep working Americans online,” said Senator Wyden (D-OR).
“This bill would ensure that more Americans are connected to affordable, high-speed internet — a must in the 21st century. Especially during the pandemic, the importance of dependable, fast internet access cannot be overstated for students to do schoolwork, for families to connect with loved ones, and for businesses to communicate with customers. Reliable broadband is also indispensable for Americans to access vaccines and health care, critical to winning the fight against this pandemic. I am proud to join in this effort with my colleagues and expand access to broadband for all,” said Senator Blumenthal (D-CT).
This month, Klobuchar and Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND) reintroduced bipartisan legislation to ensure that students and low-income families have access to critical internet connectivity during the coronavirus pandemic. The Keeping Critical Connections Act would appropriate $2 billion for a temporary Keeping Critical Connections fund at the Federal Communications Commission to help small broadband providers sustain internet services and upgrades for students and low-income families during the pandemic. In April 2020, Klobuchar and Cramer also led a bipartisan, bicameral letter urging congressional leadership to include funding for a Keeping Critical Connections fund in the next coronavirus relief package.
In May 2020, Klobuchar and Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Gary Peters (D-MI), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV) introduced The Supporting Connectivity for Higher Education Students in Need Act. This bill establishes a $1 billion fund at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to help ensure that college and university students at historically Black colleges and universities, Tribal colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, and other minority-serving institutions, as well as rural-serving institutions, have adequate home internet connectivity during the coronavirus pandemic. The bill provides federal support for these colleges and universities to help students in need pay for at-home internet connections and equipment such as routers, modems, Wi-Fi hotspots, laptops, tablets, and internet-enabled devices. In December 2020, provisions based on this bill were included in the year-end omnibus package passed by the Senate and signed into law, providing $285 million funding for these colleges and universities.
Last March, Senators Klobuchar, Wicker, Gary Peters (D-MI), and John Thune’s (R-SD) bipartisan legislation to improve the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) broadband coverage maps was signed into law. The Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability (DATA) Act will require the FCC to collect more granular data from fixed, wireless, and satellite broadband providers, enhance the accuracy of data from mobile broadband providers, consider a process to ensure data is reliable, and create a process for state, local, and Tribal governments to challenge the FCC maps’ accuracy. This bill was signed into law in March 2020. In December 2020, Klobuchar secured $65 million in critical funding in the year-end omnibus bill to ensure that this legislation is implemented.
In December 2019, Klobuchar, Thune, and 46 of their colleagues urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in a letter to promote the deployment of sustainable broadband networks as the FCC considers adopting new rules in its Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) proceeding. The RDOF will award high-cost Universal Service Fund (USF) support to deploy broadband service in rural areas.
In June 2019, Klobuchar and Senator Shelley Moore Capito’s (R-WV) legislation to improve broadband connectivity passed the Senate. The Measuring the Economic Impact of Broadband Act would require the Bureau of Economic Analysis, in consultation with the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Technology, to conduct a study of the effects of the digital economy and the adoption of broadband deployment on the U.S. economy.
In March 2019, Klobuchar, Capito, and Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and John Hoeven (R-ND) introduced bipartisan legislation to improve the FCC’s broadband coverage maps. The Improving Broadband Mapping Act directs the FCC to initiate a rulemaking to consider using consumer-reported data and state and local data from government entities to improve broadband mapping accuracy while also considering ways that both fixed and mobile coverage data can be challenged.
Klobuchar and Wicker also led the Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act, which was signed into law as part of the 2018 Farm Bill. The bipartisan legislation directs the FCC to establish a task force to identify gaps in broadband coverage and encourage broadband deployment on farms and ranchland.
“This pandemic has made clear that broadband is no longer nice-to-have, it’s need-to-have for everyone, everywhere,” said Jessica Rosenworcel, Acting FCC Chairwoman. “Kudos to the Rural Broadband Task Force and the Senate for recognizing this fundamental truth and developing a plan to connect us all. Working together we can solve the digital divide and give everyone a fair shot at internet age success.”
“Late last year, Congress invested in broadband connectivity to help fight the pandemic through the Emergency Broadband Benefit,” said Geoffrey Starks, FCC Commissioner. “This legislation takes the vital next steps—following through on digital equity, making big investments in broadband infrastructure, and focusing our resources in the most efficient manner. I’m thankful for the continued leadership of Majority Whip Clyburn and Senator Klobuchar in ensuring that all Americans have broadband to connect them to work, school, medicine, and loved ones.”
“Broadband access is essential to the health of our nation and to the success of all people living and working in this country,” said Kate Ruane, Senior Legislative Counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. “We look forward to working with Whip Clyburn and all Members of Congress to increase broadband access and affordability for all.”
“The nation’s libraries – 117,000 strong – have long been an essential strand in our country’s digital safety net,” said Julius C. Jefferson, Jr., President of the American Library Association. “Every day libraries see the repercussions of a persistent digital divide and provide millions of Americans not only access to the internet, but also help develop the skills to navigate increasingly sophisticated online services and resources. The Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act tackles all sides of the digital divide: access, affordability, and adoption, and digital skills. The American Library Association looks forward to working with Rep. Clyburn and the Rural Broadband Task Force to move forward the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act.”
“Broadband access has never been more important, and NTCA members continue to lead the charge in delivering high-quality broadband services that make rural communities vibrant places to live, do business, and go to school,” said Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association. “That said, the job of connecting rural America with broadband and maintaining those connections is not done. On behalf of NTCA’s members, I therefore thank Congressman Clyburn and Senator Klobuchar for their leadership in highlighting the importance of connecting all Americans. We particularly appreciate this bill’s acknowledgment of the need for more robust networks that will meet the demands of consumers today and tomorrow, and the measures to ensure recipients of funds will in fact be capable of delivering services as promised before funds are awarded. We look forward to continuing to work with policymakers on tackling broadband availability and adoption challenges in the weeks, months and years ahead.”
"For too long, the federal government has let America's digital divide and infrastructure languish,” said Joshua Stager, Deputy Director of the Open Technology Institute. “The Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act makes clear that those days are over. This legislation is the best broadband infrastructure bill we've seen, as it addresses the full scope of the problem: access, affordability, and digital literacy. This legislation offers structural reforms that will hold internet providers accountable and help millions of people stay connected during the pandemic and beyond. Congress should pass it as soon as possible."
“This legislation is a significant investment that would help the approximately 42 million Americans on the wrong side of the digital divide by taking a more comprehensive approach to getting and keeping people connected to affordable, reliable high-speed broadband,” said Jenna Leventoff, Senior Policy Counsel for Public Knowledge. “It would fund both broadband deployment and affordability, as well as improving reliability by requiring the FCC to collect data on the resiliency of our nation’s communications networks. We urge Congress to pass this legislation as an important next step towards closing the digital divide, and look forward to working with Rep. Clyburn, Sen. Klobuchar, and others as they continue their work to close the digital divide for good.”
"For the last year the conversation around closing the digital divide has centered on short-term, urgent solutions necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said John Windhausen Jr., Executive Director of the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition. “While these efforts are critical, we also need long-term solutions to address the enormous inequities in our broadband landscape so we are better prepared for the next crisis. The SHLB Coalition applauds Whip Clyburn and Senator Klobuchar for re-introducing the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act, a well-rounded proposal that looks to close our nation's connectivity gap with a path for all community anchor institutions in the country to have gigabit capacity, a goal established in the National Broadband Plan that we must not let slip. The bill would also attend to the important need for digital literacy training to promote broadband adoption. We encourage Congress to keep its eye on the prize - closing the digital divide - by moving quickly to enact the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act as soon as possible."
“CWA members, especially the technicians who build these networks, have seen firsthand how our nation's inadequate investment in broadband has exacerbated inequality during the pandemic,” said Chris Shelton, President of the Communications Workers of America (CWA). “With a new President and Congress in power, we now have an incredible chance to build back better and transform our nation by ensuring affordable, high-speed broadband access for all, regardless of race, income or geography. Rep. Clyburn's broadband infrastructure bill introduced today includes strong provisions to expand broadband access to rural communities and protect good union jobs across the country.”
"Consumer Reports is proud to support the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act authored and introduced by Representative Clyburn,” said Jonathan Schwantes, Senior Policy Counsel for Consumer Reports. “This bill represents a long overdue down payment for what it will take to get more Americans, especially our most vulnerable, connected to high-speed internet. Of the many things we have quickly learned as millions of Americans have shifted to working, learning, and receiving medical care at home during the pandemic is the absolute necessity of a reliable and affordable internet connection with clear and transparent pricing. This act contains several provisions that address the affordability and price transparency challenges, while also encouraging community broadband alternatives by doing away with anti-competitive, anti-consumer state laws that prohibit local broadband networks that could offer its residents better service at lower prices."
"We cannot wait any longer to ensure that every home and business in America has a robust broadband connection, to grow our economy, protect our health, and ensure that all kids have equal access to a good education,” said James P. Steyer, CEO and Founder of Common Sense Media. “This critical legislation takes us in that direction and Congress should move quickly to pass it along with other key infrastructure investments."
“America is in desperate need of a national 21st century infrastructure program for universal broadband access,” said Ernesto Falcon, Senior Legislative Counsel of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “The Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act is that plan, and it will deliver future-proof fiber-optic connections into communities across the country where none exists or will ever exist without this bill. If Congress wants to end the digital divide, this is the bill to do it.”
“The Fiber Broadband Association enthusiastically endorses the Accessible, Affordable Internet Act of 2021 as this legislation promises to change the landscape of US Internet usage, providing millions of unserved and underserved Americans with access to the world’s highest performing broadband networks,” said Gary Bolton, President & CEO of the Fiber Broadband Association. ‘The global pandemic has highlighted the critical necessity of all-fiber networks and the role they play in closing the widening urban and rural digital divide gap for all Americans.”
“It’s clear the digital divide will not fix itself,” said Eric Null, U.S. Policy Manager for Access Now. “The COVID pandemic has forced many online, but the digital divide has left behind the nation’s low-income communities and communities of color. The Affordable, Accessible Internet for All Act tackles this issue head-on by narrowing the chasm between the broadband haves and have-nots. Not only does the legislation fund digital inclusion programs and infrastructure, it overrides states that have made community broadband solutions difficult or impossible, and requires broadband providers to be transparent about their pricing data. Passing this bill will substantially close the digital divide, helping to bring the nation’s most at-risk communities online.”
“The ‘Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act’ is an essential piece of legislation that addresses broadband affordability, availability and adoption, recognizing that the digital divide is both an urban and a rural problem,” said Gigi Sohn, Distinguished Fellow at Georgetown Law Institute for Technology & Policy. “Importantly, it would promote competition in the broadband market by preferencing open access networks and repealing anticompetitive state laws that prohibit communities from building their own broadband networks. The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the need for every household in the U.S. to have robust, high speed broadband Internet access at home. The Emergency Broadband Benefit included in December’s COVID-19 relief bill was a great start. The Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act is the next important step in getting the job done. The American people owe a debt of gratitude to the House Rural Broadband Task Force Staff, House Majority Whip Clyburn’s staff, and the House Energy and Commerce Committee staff. They took a bill that was excellent when passed last July and made it even better. The result is a bill that will make great progress towards bringing Internet access to the tens of millions in the U.S. who don’t currently have it. Congress should pass this bill without delay.”
“Internet for All is more than a goal, it’s a moral imperative,” said Chip Pickering, CEO of INCOMPAS. “Together our nation can and must, extend the power of faster, more affordable internet access to every American family. The Clyburn legislation will create jobs today and make a bold investment in a better future filled with more competition, innovation and opportunity for all.
“INCOMPAS supports additional federal investment in our broadband future. INCOMPAS members bring more broadband competition and build new networks that deliver gigabit speed service and beyond at lower prices. Together we will fight to ensure all Americans can have access to the internet of the future and the opportunities for innovation it creates.”
“The COVID-19 crisis has made everyone 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 and tribal communities,” said Angela Siefer, Executive Director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance. “The AAIA Bill is an historic effort to address multiple causes of our persistent digital divide. It not only includes a substantial investment to extend high speed internet access, but also addresses the United States’ inequitable access and use of the internet by authorizing additional funding for the Emergency Broadband Benefit to make access affordable to everyone, supporting state level digital equity planning, helping states and communities fund digital inclusion initiatives, and requiring the FCC and internet service providers to make the price of home broadband service transparent and public. These are all vital steps toward digital equity for all Americans.”
“Efforts to bridge the digital divide began nearly 25 years ago, yet millions of rural Americans remain sidelined and disconnected simply because of their zip code,” said Jim Matheson, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. “In 2021, that’s unacceptable – especially as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spotlight the need for high-performing broadband access in so many aspects of rural communities. Hundreds of electric cooperatives are conducting feasibility studies on building broadband for their communities, on top of the more than 150 electric co-ops already working to provide broadband access in their local communities. This legislation carries the promise of accelerating those efforts and expanding broadband access across rural America. We commend the cosponsors of the bill for their focus on solving this problem and look forward to working with them and other stakeholders to make broadband access possible throughout the nation.”
“Too many of our most vulnerable citizens—tragically this includes our nation’s secondary students—lack the most basic of modern tools—access to the internet and a computer in their homes,” said Donna Rattley Washington, Founder of The Student Internet Equity Coalition. “The Student Internet Equity Coalition advocates for equitable digital access for America's secondary students. Congressman Clyburn’s bill, Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act, is groundbreaking legislation that creates and funds a set of robust policy responses to attack and eradicate digital, educational and economic inequality, especially for people of color and other marginalized communities.”
"We applaud the efforts of Majority Whip Clyburn and the House Broadband Taskforce to get broadband to unserved households,” said Derrick Owens, Senior Vice President of Government & Industry Affairs at WTA - Advocates for Rural Broadband. “What’s been confirmed over the past year is that broadband connectivity is absolutely vital for participation in today’s world. We look forward to working on this pressing issue with Majority Whip Clyburn and his colleagues in the House and Senate as this legislation moves forward.”