March 11, 2021

Wyden, Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Expand Access to Affordable High-Speed Internet

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Ron Wyden today introduced comprehensive broadband infrastructure legislation that would expand access to affordable high-speed internet for all Americans.

"In my town halls across Oregon, I've seen first-hand how reliable broadband can lift up rural towns. And I’ve seen how rural and lower-income communities without first-class infrastructure are being left behind,” Wyden said. “Senator Klobuchar and Congressman Clyburn's legislation is a strong package that would ensure all Americans can depend on broadband for critical access to work, education, healthcare and everything else. I'm also pleased they included an additional $6 billion for the Emergency Broadband Benefit I helped craft, to keep working Americans online.” 

The Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act will invest over $94 billion to build high-speed broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved communities to close the digital divide and ensure Americans have internet connectivity to learn and work from home, access telehealth services, and stay connected to loved ones. 

The Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act was introduced by U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn, D-S.C. Along with Wyden, the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act is cosponsored by Senators Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, Ed Markey, D-Mass., Jacky Rosen, D-N.V., Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Mark Warner, D-Va., Cory Booker, D-N.J., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev. In the House, Majority Whip Clyburn was joined by members of the House Rural Broadband Task Force.

The Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act is endorsed by Public Knowledge, Free Press, National Consumer Law Center, New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute, Consumer Reports, the Schools, Health, Libraries, and Broadband Coalition (SHLB), Common Cause, Benton Institute for Broadband and Society, Leadership Conference, Access Now, Electronic Frontier Foundation, National Digital Inclusion Alliance, National Education Association, National Defense Industrial Association, Communications Workers of America, and North America’s Building Trades Union.

“This pandemic has made clear that broadband is no longer nice-to-have, it’s need-to-have for everyone, everywhere,” said Jessica Rosenworcel, Acting FCC Chairwoman. “Kudos to the Rural Broadband Task Force for recognizing this fundamental truth and developing a plan to connect us all. Working together we can solve the digital divide and give everyone a fair shot at internet age success.” 

“The nation’s libraries – 117,000 strong – have long been an essential strand in our country’s digital safety net,” said Julius C. Jefferson, Jr., President of the American Library Association. “Every day libraries see the repercussions of a persistent digital divide and provide millions of Americans not only access to the internet, but also help develop the skills to navigate increasingly sophisticated online services and resources. The Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act tackles all sides of the digital divide: access, affordability, and adoption, and digital skills. The American Library Association looks forward to working with Rep. Clyburn and the Rural Broadband Task Force to move forward the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act.”

“Broadband access has never been more important, and NTCA members continue to lead the charge in delivering high-quality broadband services that make rural communities vibrant places to live, do business, and go to school,” said Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association. “That said, the job of connecting rural America with broadband and maintaining those connections is not done. On behalf of NTCA’s members, I therefore thank Congressman Clyburn and Senator Klobuchar for their leadership in highlighting the importance of connecting all Americans. We particularly appreciate this bill’s acknowledgment of the need for more robust networks that will meet the demands of consumers today and tomorrow, and the measures to ensure recipients of funds will in fact be capable of delivering services as promised before funds are awarded. We look forward to continuing to work with policymakers on tackling broadband availability and adoption challenges in the weeks, months and years ahead.”

"For too long, the federal government has let America's digital divide and infrastructure languish,” said Joshua Stager, Deputy Director of the Open Technology Institute. “The Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act makes clear that those days are over. This legislation is the best broadband infrastructure bill we've seen, as it addresses the full scope of the problem: access, affordability, and digital literacy. This legislation offers structural reforms that will hold internet providers accountable and help millions of people stay connected during the pandemic and beyond. Congress should pass it as soon as possible." 

"We cannot wait any longer to ensure that every home and business in America has a robust broadband connection, to grow our economy, protect our health, and ensure that all kids have equal access to a good education,” said James P. Steyer, CEO and Founder of Common Sense Media. “This critical legislation takes us in that direction and Congress should move quickly to pass it along with other key infrastructure investments."

“America is in desperate need of a national 21st century infrastructure program for universal broadband access,” said Ernesto Falcon, Senior Legislative Counsel of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “The Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act is that plan, and it will deliver future-proof fiber-optic connections into communities across the country where none exists or will ever exist without this bill. If Congress wants to end the digital divide, this is the bill to do it.”

“The Fiber Broadband Association enthusiastically endorses the Accessible, Affordable Internet Act of 2021 as this legislation promises to change the landscape of US Internet usage, providing millions of unserved and underserved Americans with access to the world’s highest performing broadband networks,” said Gary Bolton, President & CEO of the Fiber Broadband Association. ‘The global pandemic has highlighted the critical necessity of all-fiber networks and the role they play in closing the widening urban and rural digital divide gap for all Americans.”

“It’s clear the digital divide will not fix itself,” said Eric Null, U.S. Policy Manager for Access Now. “The COVID pandemic has forced many online, but the digital divide has left behind the nation’s low-income communities and communities of color. The Affordable, Accessible Internet for All Act tackles this issue head-on by narrowing the chasm between the broadband haves and have-nots. Not only does the legislation fund digital inclusion programs and infrastructure, it overrides states that have made community broadband solutions difficult or impossible, and requires broadband providers to be transparent about their pricing data. Passing this bill will substantially close the digital divide, helping to bring the nation’s most at-risk communities online.”

“The COVID-19 crisis has made everyone aware that tens of millions of our neighbors still lack basic internet connections, and they live in communities of all kinds – big cities, small towns, suburban as well as rural and tribal communities,” said Angela Siefer, Executive Director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance. “The AAIA Bill is an historic effort to address multiple causes of our persistent digital divide. It not only includes a substantial investment to extend high speed internet access, but also addresses the United States’ inequitable access and use of the internet by authorizing additional funding for the Emergency Broadband Benefit to make access affordable to everyone, supporting state level digital equity planning, helping states and communities fund digital inclusion initiatives, and requiring the FCC and internet service providers to make the price of home broadband service transparent and public. These are all vital steps toward digital equity for all Americans.”

“Efforts to bridge the digital divide began nearly 25 years ago, yet millions of rural Americans remain sidelined and disconnected simply because of their zip code,” said Jim Matheson, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. “In 2021, that’s unacceptable – especially as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spotlight the need for high-performing broadband access in so many aspects of rural communities. Hundreds of electric cooperatives are conducting feasibility studies on building broadband for their communities, on top of the more than 150 electric co-ops already working to provide broadband access in their local communities. This legislation carries the promise of accelerating those efforts and expanding broadband access across rural America. We commend the cosponsors of the bill for their focus on solving this problem and look forward to working with them and other stakeholders to make broadband access possible throughout the nation.”