Three Senators introduced bipartisan legislation on Tuesday that would spend $40 billion to make broadband internet more affordable and accessible.
The Broadband Reform and Investment to Drive Growth in the Economy Act is one of the largest proposals aimed at addressing the digital divide. The bill would require that broadband providers have an affordable option for low-income families and that upload and download speeds are at least 100 Mbps.
The bill was co-sponsored by Senators Michael Bennet, Rob Portman, and Angus King.
“I think it’s very exciting as long as everyone in the country has access to broadband,” Senator Bennet told The Washington Post. “If they don’t, we’re going to see the digital divide creating a greater divide than what already exists between kids living in poverty and more affluent kids.”
Bennet believes that the demand for broadband will continue to grow as hybrid work and school environments shift. The COVID-19 crisis highlighted the digital divide throughout the country as workers and students went remote.
“Too many rural and low-income communities in Ohio and across the U.S. lack affordable and reliable access to broadband. In a time when more and more people communicate, learn, and work over the internet, it has never been more important to ensure every community has quality access to broadband,” Portman said.
Earlier this month, House moderates presented a $1.25 trillion proposal that reserved $45 billion for broadband, and President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan provides $100 billion.
“The American Rescue Plan included a historic down payment on broadband infrastructure to confront this challenge, but a larger investment is needed to ensure that no Americans are left behind in our increasingly digital society,” King said.
In a time when more and more people communicate, learn, and work over the internet, it has never been more important to ensure every community has quality access to broadband,” said Portman. “The BRIDGE Act is designed to help underserved areas rapidly achieve broadband access so that we may close the digital divide in this country.”