Doyle and Pallone Work to Keep Americans Online During COVID-19
Washington, D.C. – Today, Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle (PA-18) and Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-6) applauded the introduction of H.R. 6800, the Heroes Act, in the House of Representatives, which includes their provisions that, if enacted, will connect Americans to broadband during the COVID-19 public health emergency.
“COVID-19 has demonstrated just how urgently we need to bridge the digital divide. As students take their classes online and millions of Americans who are out of work turn to the internet for resources, we cannot let the cost of internet service be a barrier,” said Congressman Doyle. “I’m pleased that the Heroes Act includes provisions we’ve been working on to keep communities connected. This bill would ensure students can get online, providing $3 billion immediately for online distance learning. It would also provide the families of those workers who have been furloughed or laid off with a $50 credit on their internet service bills - and it would prohibit telephone and internet service providers from discontinuing service to families who are unable to pay their internet service bills during this unprecedented pandemic.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has made clear not only how critically important internet access is, but also how devastating it can be for the many consumers on the wrong side of the digital divide. As more and more workers are laid-off and schools plan for distance learning going into the upcoming academic year, Chairmen Pallone and Doyle believe Congress must take immediate steps to connect all Americans. This legislation would:
- Authorize up to $5 billion in funding and provides $3 billion immediately for schools and libraries to purchase hotspots, connected devices, connectivity and related equipment to facilitate distance learning during the emergency.
- Provide American workers falling on hard times and low-income households with a credit of up to $50 a month to pay their internet service bills during the emergency.
- Prohibit telephone and broadband service providers from stopping service to consumers unable to pay during the duration of the emergency.
- Ensure our frontline first responders can keep using the airwaves they rely on to communicate, specifically the T-Band, permanently.
- Help Americans better access mental health crisis counseling by designating 9-8-8 as the nationwide suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline so that Americans that are isolated and feeling hopeless can get help.
- Drastically reduce the rates that incarcerated persons pay to connect with family and friends.
- Authorize $2 billion in support for broadband connectivity for health care facilities, including those that are temporary.