Sen. Young joins call to protect broadband providers during outbreak

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As discussions continue about another Coronavirus stimulus package Indiana Sen. Todd Young is joining a bi-partisan effort to fund small broadband providers, and make sure low-income families stay connected.

The Keeping Critical Connections Act was introduced in March and would appropriate $2 billion to fund the effort. That money would be available to any small broadband provider with fewer than 250,000 customers, if they are willing to provide free or discounted services to families in need.

A letter from the supporting legislators say that small broadband providers support more than $10 billion in economic activity, which could be in danger if people can’t afford to pay their bill during the pandemic.

You can read the full statement from Sen. Young’s office below:

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.) joined a group of senators on a bipartisan, bicameral letter urging Senate and House leaders to include dedicated funding to help small broadband providers sustain internet services and upgrades for students and low-income families in any future legislation in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Last month, Senator Young introduced the Keeping Critical Connections Act to help small broadband companies provide critical internet services and upgrades for students and their families during the coronavirus pandemic. The bill would appropriate $2 billion for a Keeping Critical Connections fund at the Federal Communications Commission under which small broadband providers with fewer than 250,000 customers could be compensated for broadband services—if they provided free or discounted broadband services or upgrades—during the pandemic for their customers that were low-income families who were unable to pay their bills or provided distance learning capability for students.

 “In recent weeks, unemployment claims have surged, and schools across the country have closed in an effort to limit the spread of coronavirus, leaving many Americans—including low-income families and students—without critical internet connectivity. Many small broadband providers have committed to continue providing voice and broadband services and upgrades despite ongoing economic hardships facing many Americans,” the members of Congress wrote.

“Small providers—which contribute to more than 77,000 jobs and support more than $10 billion in economic activity in the United States— may be unable to sustain services if customers are unable to pay for a prolonged period of time, jeopardizing broadband connectivity for customers all across this country. Without action from Congress, small providers may be unable to continue to help ensure that the communities they serve can access distance learning and telehealth services.”

Full letter:

Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Speaker Pelosi, Minority Leader Schumer, and Minority Leader McCarthy:

We write to urge you to include dedicated funding in any future legislation to help ensure small broadband providers can keep students and low-income families connected during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Many students and low-income families are facing financial hardships due to the pandemic need assistance from small broadband providers—many of which have already committed to sustain critical internet services and provide upgrades to ensure that the most vulnerable among us stay connected.

In recent weeks, unemployment claims have surged, and schools across the country have closed in an effort to limit the spread of coronavirus, leaving many Americans—including low-income families and students—without critical internet connectivity. Many small broadband providers have committed to continue providing voice and broadband services and upgrades despite ongoing economic hardships facing many Americans. Small providers—which contribute to more than 77,000 jobs and support more than $10 billion in economic activity in the United States— may be unable to sustain services if customers are unable to pay for a prolonged period of time, jeopardizing broadband connectivity for customers all across this country. Without action from Congress, small providers may be unable to continue to help ensure that the communities they serve can access distance learning and telehealth services.

It is for this reason that we introduced the bipartisan Keeping Critical Connections Act, which now has 11 cosponsors in the House and 17 in the Senate. While the third coronavirus relief package included funding for rural broadband deployment, it did not include funding to help small broadband providers sustain services and upgrades for students and low-income families. We now urge you to include funding in the next expected relief package for a temporary emergency relief fund at the Federal Communications Commission to help small broadband providers continue these critical services for students and low-income families throughout the pandemic.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We stand ready to work with you to help small broadband companies keep communities connected at this critical time.

Sincerely,

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