WASHINGTON, D.C. – As the coronavirus pandemic exacerbates internet connectivity disparities across rural America, U.S. Representatives Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07), Rodney Davis (R-IL-13), and Stacey E. Plaskett (D-USVI-AL) today led a bipartisan effort alongside 73 of their U.S. House colleagues urging congressional leadership to prioritize large-scale federal investment in high-speed internet projects.
In a letter sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, the bipartisan group of lawmakers called for both chambers of Congress to include robust high-speed broadband internet infrastructure funding in any upcoming long-term infrastructure package related to the nation’s COVID-19 response.
“As Congress considers such a stimulus package, we urge you to include the funding necessary to ensure that Americans have access to broadband from coast to coast. The economic mobility and access to the modern economy of Americans should not be determined by their zip code,” said Spanberger, Davis, Plaskett, and 73 of their colleagues. “By making a historic investment in our nation’s e-connectivity, Congress would not only stimulate the economy through new construction and associated jobs but would unleash economic and entrepreneurial opportunities across all of America by giving those in the most remote areas access to the same tools for e-commerce as those in the largest cities.”
This connectivity divide between rural America and other areas of the United States is creating a range of challenges for rural families, businesses, farms, and students, particularly during this public health crisis. According to the Federal Communications Commission’s 2019 Broadband Deployment Report, approximately 21 million Americans are reported to lack access to high-speed internet—and this number is very likely an underestimate, due to issues with broadband coverage maps. And according to the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society, only 53 percent of U.S. students in small towns or rural areas have access to high-speed internet—compared to 77 percent of suburban students.
Click here to access a copy of the letter, and the full letter text is below.
Dear Speaker Pelosi, Leader McConnell, Leader Schumer, and Leader McCarthy,
The spread of the coronavirus within our nation’s communities has strained our healthcare systems beyond capacity, shuttered local businesses, and closed schools nationwide, turning the lives of everyday Americans upside down. It has also forced a historic reliance on the internet – and yet, as of 2019, more than one in four rural residents still lack broadband access. In the midst of this crisis, millions of Americans find themselves without the ability to access a wide range of essential services including e-learning for children being schooled at home, video conferencing to work from home and stay in touch with our loved ones, and telehealth services that help flatten the curve by keeping those feeling ill at home.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a bright spotlight on the disparities that exist across the country between those who have broadband and those who do not. These disparities have real public health and economic impacts—and not just during a public health crisis. In addition to looking for short-term solutions that can immediately mitigate some of these disparities and provide relief during this crisis, we also need to address the issue of broadband connectivity over the long-term.
Once the pandemic has abated and the economic recovery begins, we cannot leave these Americans to continue to face the same e-connectivity problems as they look to rebuild. From the reports of record-high unemployment claims to projections of negative GDP growth through the end of the year, it is becoming increasingly clear that following the end of this public health crisis, Congress will need to take action to help stimulate the economy, including by making much-needed investments in our nation’s rural areas.
As Congress considers such a stimulus package, we urge you to include the funding necessary to ensure that Americans have access to broadband from coast to coast. The economic mobility and access to the modern economy of Americans should not be determined by their zip code. By making a historic investment in our nation’s e-connectivity, Congress would not only stimulate the economy through new construction and associated jobs but would unleash economic and entrepreneurial opportunities across all of America by giving those in the most remote areas access to the same tools for e-commerce as those in the largest cities.
Thank you for your consideration of this request.