US lawmakers introduce bill to make high-speed internet available to all

The Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act will focus on unserved and underserved areas.

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A new bill aims to make high-speed internet more accessible everywhere in the US, including far-flung locations and underserved communities. House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn has introduced the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act (PDF), which will spend $94 billion to ensure that unserved and persistent poverty communities have access to affordable high-speed internet. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), co-chairperson of the Senate Broadband Caucus, has also introduced the bill in the Senate.

Out of its total budget, $80 billion will be spent on deploying broadband infrastructure nationwide, while prioritizing unserved and underserved rural, suburban and urban areas. Providers whose networks were built from that money will then be required to offer affordable plans to consumers. The bill will also authorize the spending of $5 billion over five years on a new program that would provide low-interest financing for broadband infrastructure build out projects. The Emergency Broadband Benefit, which provides a $50 monthly discount on internet plans for low-income Americans and $75 for customers on tribal lands, will get an additional $6 billion in funding. $2 billion will go to the Emergency Connectivity Fund for students that need internet connection, and a portion of the money will also go towards funding for WiFi on school buses.

In the lawmakers' announcement, they said the legislation was a product of extensive collaboration between Clyburn's House Rural Broadband Task Force, Chairman Frank Pallone of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Senator Klobuchar.

Clyburn said in a statement:

"Access to broadband today will have the same dramatic impact on rural communities as the rural electrification efforts in the last century. 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."