WASHINGTON, DC – Consumer Reports today applauded the introduction of the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act by U.S. Rep. James Clyburn. This legislation is a critical step to bridging the digital divide by investing in the development of high-speed broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved communities, resulting in internet service that is both more accessible and affordable.
“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’ve learned, as millions of Americans shifted to working, learning, and receiving medical care at home, is the absolute necessity of a reliable, affordable internet connection with clear and transparent pricing.
A February 2021 nationally representative Consumer Reports survey confirms just how important consumers value access to the internet, with 76 percent of Americans agreeing that internet service is as important as electricity or water service in today’s world. A nearly equal percentage of consumers, 75 percent, rely on the internet every single day. And 86 percent of consumers need access to the internet at least five days a week.
“This bill 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,” Schwantes added.
Among the provisions that CR strongly supports is an important requirement that recipients of federal funds to build new broadband networks must include an affordable option so that consumers with fewer means might be able to acquire service.
Consumer Reports also applauds the bill’s directive to the FCC to begin the annual collection of pricing data to get a handle on what exactly consumers are paying for broadband service, and the re-introduction of the consumer broadband label that will further enhance price transparency. Such steps are long overdue and will help consumers better understand what they are paying for internet service that is currently complicated by bundled pricing, equipment rental fees, and other company-imposed fees that obscure the true cost of service.
Finally, the bill commissions a report to examine the number of households for which cost is a barrier to the adoption of broadband service, and whether adoption of broadband service is affordable for households, given the financial circumstances of such households among other things that speak to the affordability challenge of broadband adoption. This report will also study how competition impacts the price of broadband service, including the impact of monopolistic business practices by broadband service providers which could be leading to higher prices and a lack of choice in many markets.