May 25, 2021

Wyden Calls for Treasury Department to Make More Communities Eligible for State and Local Broadband Grants

Washington, D.C. – Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., urged Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to allow more underserved communities to deploy modern broadband networks with American Rescue Plan funds, in a letter sent today.

In Treasury’s interim rule, any community with more than 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload speeds would be ineligible for the funds. That outdated definition of broadband is inadequate for modern internet use, Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel and other experts have made clear.

“The mass adoption of video calling, streaming, and other bandwidth-intensive apps by Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear that miserly speeds and data caps are holding back telework, remote education and telehealth capacity,” Wyden wrote. “Simply put, it is not possible for a family of four to telework and engage in remote schooling while sharing 3 Mbps of upload bandwidth.” 

Wyden urged Treasury to update its rule to make funds available to communities that lack affordable broadband options, or with download and upload speeds below 100 megabits per second (Mbps).

Failing to address concerns “will further expand the digital divide and jeopardize our ability as a nation to build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, as you finalize the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds Final Rule, I urge you to clarify that underserved locations include anywhere affordable, reliable broadband of at least 100 Mbps symmetric is not available,” Wyden wrote.

Read the full letter here.