Broadband Subsidy Letter


[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width="2/3"][vc_column_text]April 6, 2021 

The Honorable Rosa DeLauro The Honorable Kay Granger Chairwoman Ranking Member 

Appropriations Committee Appropriations Committee 

U.S. House of Representatives U.S. House of Representatives  Washington, DC 20515 Washington, DC 20515 

The Honorable Frank Pallone, Jr. The Honorable Cathy McMorris Rodgers Chairman Ranking Member 

Energy & Commerce Committee Energy & Commerce Committee U.S. House of Representatives U.S. House of Representatives Washington, DC 20515 Washington, DC 20515 

The Honorable Richard Neal The Honorable Kevin Brady Chairman Ranking Member  

Ways & Means Committee Ways & Means Committee U.S. House of Representatives U.S. House of Representatives Washington, DC 20515 Washington, DC 20515 

The Honorable Patrick Leahy The Honorable Richard Shelby Chairman Ranking Member 

Appropriations Committee Appropriations Committee 

U.S. Senate U.S. Senate 

Washington, D.C. 20010 Washington, D.C. 20010 

The Honorable Maria Cantwell The Honorable Roger Wicker Chairwoman Ranking Member 

Commerce, Science & Transportation Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee Committee 

U.S. Senate U.S. Senate 

Washington, D.C. 20010 Washington, D.C. 20010 

The Honorable Ron Wyden The Honorable Mike Crapo Chairman Ranking member 

Finance Committee Finance Committee 

U.S. Senate U.S. Senate 

Washington, D.C. 20010 Washington, D.C. 20010 


Dear Chairwomen, Chairmen, and Ranking members, 

The COVID-19 pandemic and related economic challenges have been a year-long study in the  central role the internet now has in our daily lives. In March 2020, virtually overnight, much of  our daily experience – jobs, health care, education, civics and connection to our family and friends – shifted online. A year later, we as a country are working to forge a more equitable  recovery and prepare the workforce for an increasingly competitive technology-driven global  marketplace. Broadband internet access will be a significant key to unlocking the door to better  education, improved healthcare, and higher-skilled jobs.  

While there has been progress to close the digital divide, it is clear that more needs to be done.  Today, there continue to be multiple barriers to broadband connectivity, resulting in far too many  people who still lack internet service. Some don’t have access to broadband networks, some  cannot afford broadband services, devices or equipment and still others lack the digital literacy  skills necessary to make use of them. Approximately 10-15 million students don’t have  broadband at home. People with disabilities are 20% less likely to be connected to broadband at  home or have the technology to go online than people without disabilities. Forty percent of  seniors don’t have residential service sufficient to meet with their doctors for telemedicine  appointments, which have increasingly taken on life-and-death importance. And the numbers are  even worse for people of color and indigenous peoples. The digital divide is real. To strengthen  our families, our communities and our nation, we must recommit to the bipartisan goal of  connecting all Americans to broadband internet service.  

America has never shied away from big goals. We put a man on the moon, eradicated polio, and  declared a war against cancer because they were national priorities of the 20th century. Closing  the digital divide must be a national priority for the 21st century.  

While research suggests there are several, often interrelated barriers to broadband adoption, we  know one of the primary barriers is that too many people cannot afford broadband service and  equipment. Efforts by broadband providers to connect low-income Americans through  discounted offerings have succeeded in connecting millions of people, but again more needs to  be done. The federal government has never adopted a robust, permanent, and coordinated  program to help more people get connected to broadband. And while Congress should be  commended for allocating funding to build out broadband in rural America – a job that needs to  continue until complete – addressing the rural broadband challenge is only part of the solution.  

Congress should comprehensively address the affordability challenge facing low-income  Americans. Existing programs aren’t sufficient. The current Lifeline program has been effective  at helping people to adopt and maintain telephone service, and it has served as an important  safety net to help provide millions with access to broadband. But, the $9.25 per month it  provides cannot facilitate the kind of swift and substantial shift of millions of low-income  Americans to broadband that this moment requires. The new Emergency Broadband Benefit  (EBB) passed in December to help economically vulnerable families stay connected during  COVID-19 was an important first step. But it is a temporary program designed for the pandemic  and is not a long-term approach. 

It’s time for Congress to adopt a long-term federally-funded broadband benefit program that the  FCC would manage and administer to provide low income individuals with enhanced financial  support for broadband long after the pandemic ends. This new program should provide  consumers with a higher benefit than the current $9.25 available from Lifeline. It should use  simplified, safe, and streamlined payment systems to encourage full participation, with benefits  delivered directly to consumers. The new program’s requirements for broadband providers must  be simple and straight-forward. The program should also empower consumers by allowing them  maximum choice in service offerings. The new program should also remove the current  requirement that service providers must become Eligible Telecom Carriers to participate in the  program, which unnecessarily limits carrier participation – and therefore competition and  consumer choice – in the provision of broadband services to low-income communities.  

To make sure this program works and has staying power, it has to have predictable, dependable  and consistent funding. And that requires that it be codified and funded by Congress through  mandatory directed spending as other entitlement programs are, rather than being subjected to  the vagaries of the annual, discretionary appropriations process. Additionally, Congress could  explore other supplemental funding sources such as proceeds from spectrum auctions. A  predictable, dependable, long-term, broadband benefit program would help ensure that all people  across the nation are connected. 

Finally, because affordability is only one of the barriers, we have to renew our commitment to a  national plan for digital literacy and skills development. To this end, as with the long term  benefit program described above, Congress should support grant programs to empower state and  local governments, school districts, and community nonprofits to pilot and scale effective  outreach to under-resourced communities and multilingual digital literacy training programs. A  decade of experience from digital inclusion programs shows that these front-line local  organizations are highly effective at helping people gain the skills, comfort, and confidence they  need to join the digital community. We need to give these digital inclusion programs more  resources to tackle the numerous intangible barriers that keep too many from adopting  broadband.  

The undersigned stand ready to work in collaboration with policy makers to reimagine and  reassess how to make sure low-income Americans are not left on the wrong side of the digital  divide. Together, a long-term broadband benefit program and a renewed commitment to digital  literacy training will help ensure that the economic prosperity that emerges out of this recovery is  more dynamic, more equitable, and more accessible to every American. We respectfully ask you  to create a predictable, sustainable, long-term broadband subsidy to ensure all people are  empowered to fully share in the possibilities and opportunities that come with access to the  internet. 



ACA Connects – America’s Communications Association 

African American Mayors Association (AAMA) 

American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) 

Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC) 

Asian/Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce & Entrepreneurship AT&T 

Balm in Gilead 

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society 

Black Women’s Roundtable 

Business Forward 


Code for America 


Doctor On Demand 


eHealth Initiative 


Healthcare Information & Management Systems Society 

United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce 

Kapor Center 

League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) 

The Latino Coalition 

LGBT Tech 

MANA, A National Latina Organization 

Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC) National Action Network (NAN) 

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL) 

National Coalition on Black Civic Participation 

National Conference of Black Churches 

National Consumers League 

National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA) 

National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) 

National Grange 

National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) 

National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) 

National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women (N.O.B.EL. Women) National Urban League (NUL) 

Personal Connected Health Alliance 


T-Mobile USA 

Third Way


U.S. Black Chambers 

US Cellular 

US Distance Learning Associates Verizon[/vc_column_text]

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