WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congress today passed the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which includes several measures aimed at improving broadband internet access, affordability and transparency. The independent, nonprofit Consumer Reports said these measures will help bridge the digital divide and introduce new rules to improve the broadband marketplace for Americans.
“We are excited about the promise of these new investments to improve access to broadband and the experiences millions of Americans have with their broadband services. This bill will help address several issues as it relates to access, affordability, and transparency,” says Jonathan Schwantes, senior policy counsel at Consumer Reports. “This bipartisan effort is critical for ensuring that more Americans, especially the most vulnerable, have a connection to high-speed internet.”
The infrastructure bill includes many provisions that CR has long championed:
- $42.5 billion for broadband infrastructure and the deployment of grants to be distributed to the states and territories with a focus on unserved and underserved markets.
- Requirement of a low-cost option to be offered by providers who take federal grant money.
- A consumer broadband label that internet service providers must provide for all service offerings. The broadband label will serve as a standardized, easy-to-read broadband label that will include pricing information, additional fees, promotional discounts and length, and performance information (i.e., expected speeds).
- $14.2 billion to extend the Emergency Broadband Benefit program that will now be the Affordable Connectivity Program (administered by the FCC).
- Restrictions on upselling or restricting the use of the benefit to particular service offerings.
- $2.75 billion over the next five years to fund grants programs to boost digital equity, inclusion, and literacy programs.
- A call to end the practice of “digital redlining” to provide greater access to high-speed internet for lower-income areas. The Federal Communications Commission is tasked to conduct a rulemaking on this issue in the next two years.
The broadband provisions of this bill reflect many of the frustrations Americans have with the broadband marketplace. In July, CR, along with a coalition of more than 40 partners across the country, launched an ambitious project called Let’s Broadband Together to investigate the state of internet access throughout the country. CR is analyzing the internet cost, quality, and speeds that are being delivered to better understand the factors that affect price and why consumers pay different rates for the same service. To learn more and take part in this exciting new project, visit broadbandtogether.org.
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