From Senator Durbin’s press release (Sen Klobuchar is co-signer)…
U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY-18) today introduced a bicameral bill that would increase access to broadband service for low-income urban and rural Americans. The Promoting Access to Broadband Act would help states increase awareness of, and enrollment in, the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Lifeline program, which aims to help low-income households pay for their telephone and broadband service charges by providing a monthly subsidy of $9.25. Enrollment in the Lifeline program remains extremely low nationwide. …
Along with Durbin and Maloney, the Promoting Access to Broadband Act is also cosponsored by Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Patty Murray (D-WA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).
A recent Pew Research Center survey found that 50 percent of non-broadband users cite cost as a reason that they do not have broadband at home, with 21 percent citing cost as the most important reason they do not have broadband. In 2017, the Lifeline program had just a 28 percent participation rate nationwide.
The Promoting Access to Broadband Act would do the following:
- Award grants to at least five states;
- Direct the FCC to consider several factors in evaluating the applications, including: states that have a higher number of covered individuals, states with plans with the potential to reach a higher percentage of eligible-but-not-enrolled households, and the geographic diversity of the applicants;
- Allow states to use the funds for a variety of Lifeline enrollment efforts, including:
- Informing Medicaid enrollees or SNAP participants of potential eligibility in the Lifeline program,
- Providing these individuals with information about how to apply for the Lifeline program,
- Partnering with non-profit and community-based organizations to provide individuals with assistance applying for Lifeline and information about product and technology choices; and
- Require the FCC to issue a report to Congress within a year of establishing the grant program evaluating the program’s effectiveness.
The bill is supported by the National Consumer Law Center, on behalf of its low-income clients; the United Church of Christ, OC Inc.; the National Digital Inclusion Alliance; Third Way; and Public Knowledge.