Washington, D.C. — The U.S. Senate is moving toward a final vote on a bipartisan infrastructure bill, which includes several measures aimed at 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.
Jonathan Schwantes, senior policy counsel for Consumer Reports said, “We commend the Senate for working together on this much needed investment in broadband infrastructure to ensure that more Americans, especially the most vulnerable, have a connection to high-speed internet. This bipartisan effort comes at a critical time as the pandemic continues to present obstacles to many in-person activities, making it more important than ever for Americans to have access to a reliable and affordable internet connection. We urge the House of Representatives to work quickly to pass this bill when it returns to Washington in September.”
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. Recently, CR, along with a coalition of more than 40 partners across the country, launched an ambitious project called Broadband Together to investigate the state of internet access throughout the country. CR is working with this broad coalition to ask thousands of consumers to submit their internet bills so CR can analyze the 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.
Contact: Cyrus Rassool, firstname.lastname@example.org