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Spanberger priorities included in landmark broadband Internet infrastructure package

Abigail SpanbergerRep. Abigail Spanberger helped lead the introduction of a landmark piece of legislation to expand high-speed broadband internet access in Central Virginia and across the country.

Spanberger, D-Va., has worked to bring immediate solutions to students, parents, Main Street businesses, and schools struggling to access high-speed internet. In April, Spanberger led 46 of her colleagues in calling for robust funding for the Federal Communications Commission’s E-Rate program in upcoming coronavirus emergency packages. Later that month, Spanberger also led a bipartisan group of 73 of her U.S. House colleagues in urging Congress to prioritize a historic investment in high-speed internet projects in any upcoming congressional infrastructure package.

The Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act includes Spanberger’s priorities to provide once-in-a-generation funding toward strengthening broadband connectivity in Central Virginia’s rural and underserved areas, while also addressing digital inequities based on geography, race, and socioeconomic barriers. Additionally, the legislation would expand the FCC’s E-Rate program to increase wireless service to existing school devices, as well as to hotspots for students who lack internet access at home.

“Access to reliable high-speed internet is fundamentally an issue of opportunity. A lack of broadband connectivity hurts the ability of students to complete their homework, businesses to recruit and hire new employees, and farmers to take advantage of the latest ag technologies,” said Spanberger. “During my first term in the U.S. House, I’ve repeatedly met with Central Virginians who’ve expressed the urgent need for expanded internet access in their communities, whether at town halls, at community roundtables, or at my Rural Broadband Summit. I’ve been proud to serve as a Member of the Rural Broadband Task Force to make sure Congress hears their concerns and recognizes the pressing need for broadband investment in any nationwide infrastructure package. This landmark legislation includes major wins for the Seventh District — including expanded E-Rate funding and a strong investment in broadband deployment in rural and underserved areas, like those in many of the Seventh District’s counties. I’d like to thank Rep. Clyburn for his leadership on our Task Force, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in both parties as we work together to close the digital divide.”

Specifically, the legislation would provide an additional $80 billion for broadband deployment in underserved areas and for states to implement statewide systems of competitive bidding for deployment. Additionally, the Spanberger-cosponsored bill would provide an additional $5 billion to expand the E-Rate program to include funding for wired and wireless home broadband connections, additional laptops and tablets for rural students, and increased mobile hotspot-lending capabilities for schools and libraries. And to further expand internet options for students, the legislation would require the FCC to make Wi-Fi access on school buses eligible for E-Rate funding.

The Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act would do the following:

  • Encourage Universal Broadband Access by:
    • Including $80 billion to deploy broadband infrastructure nationwide,
    • Allocating $5 billion for low-interest financing of broadband deployment through a new secured loan program, and
    • Establishing a new office within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to ensure efficient use of federal money.
  • Ensure Internet Affordability by:
    • Requiring an affordable option for internet service plans offered on the newly-built infrastructure,
    • Providing a $50 monthly discount on plans for low-income consumers, and
    • Directing the FCC to collect and publicize data on prices charged for broadband service throughout the country.
  • Promote Internet Adoption by:
    • Providing more than $1 billion to establish grant programs for states to close gaps in broadband adoption, as well as digital inclusion projects for organizations and local communities to implement,
    • Including $5 billion to enable students without internet at home to participate in remote learning, and
    • Authorizing funding for Wi-Fi on school buses so students can stay connected, especially in rural areas where longer bus rides are common.

Click here to read the full bill text.