Bill Introduced to Protect Rural Broadband During Current Crisis

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A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators and Congressional Representatives has recently introduced a bill that would help small broadband providers continue to provide service in rural America during the coronavirus pandemic. The Keeping Critical Connections Act is intended to ensure that students and their families in rural areas have access to vital broadband services in this critical time.

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), one of the bill’s sponsors, said that the Act, “would help small broadband providers continue offering free or discounted broadband services…in rural areas to ensure” (connection by students and their families) “to schools, work and their communities.” Another sponsor, Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND), rightfully noted that, “The federal government asked this essential industry to keep providing assistance to people during COVID-19, and they answered the call. The least we can do is make sure they are made whole when this pandemic is over.”

The proposed Act would appropriate a $2 billion fund for the FCC to compensate small broadband providers – those with fewer than 250,000 customers – that during the pandemic 1.) provide free or discounted broadband services or upgrades for low income families that cannot pay their bills; and/or 2.) provide distance learning capability for students.

We think this is a great step in rewarding small, rural broadband providers for helping their customers cope with the tragedy of coronavirus. We are also encouraged – in this time of endless investigations, ugly accusations and continual political bickering – to see a bipartisan effort to bring good to rural America.