The U.S. House of Representatives passed the “Moving Forward Act” (HR 2), a $1.5 trillion infrastructure funding bill that includes $8.8 billion for a new “broadband benefit” program to help low-income households and recently laid-off consumers pay for internet connections, as well as $1.3 billion in funding for state and community digital inclusion initiatives.
NDIA Executive Director Angela Siefer enthusiastically welcomed the House vote. “This is an historic moment for digital inclusion practitioners and advocates, as well as for millions of urban and rural Americans who remain excluded from mainstream digital connection,” Siefer commented.
Here’s what it means…
HR 2, approved by a 233-188 vote cast along mostly party lines, incorporates all the provisions of the $100 billion “Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act”, introduced on June 24 by South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn and more than two dozen colleagues. Those provisions include:
- $8.8 billion for a new “broadband benefit” program that would reimburse internet providers for discounts provided to low-income households (eligible for Lifeline, qualified for federal school lunch subsidies, or receiving Pell Grants) and consumers who are recently unemployed. Bills for normal home internet service could be subsidized as much as $50 a month ($75 for households on tribal lands.)
- $1.3 billion over five years for state and community digital inclusion initiatives. These include the State Digital Equity Capacity Program, an annual grant program for states to create and implement comprehensive digital equity plans to help close gaps in broadband adoption and digital skill; and the Digital Equity Competitive Grant Program to further support these efforts through digital inclusion projects undertaken by local communities. (This is mostly the contents of the Digital Equity Act.)
- $85 billion in grant and loan funding for broadband infrastructure deployments that bring at least 100/100 Mbps access to areas where those speeds are unavailable. Funded projects must offer affordable rate tiers.
- $5 billion to support local schools’ efforts to invest in home connectivity for students and staff.
- Federal protection against state restrictions for communities seeking to build their own broadband networks.
- A requirement for the FCC to start collecting and publishing residential internet price information from all broadband providers.
Next step – the Senate, where Senators Klobuchar and Clyburn introduced The Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act earlier today. It will invest $100 billion to build high-speed broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved communities to close the digital divide and connect Americans to ensure they have increased access to education, health care, and business opportunities.