A bipartisan, bicameral, quartet of legislators has called on the Trump Administration to back dedicated COVID-19 aid-related funding for smaller broadband providers in the next COVID-19 aid package.
That came in a letter to the President Thursday (April 23), a copy of which was supplied to Multichannel News. "As you work with Congress to provide additional economic relief for Americans impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, we urge you to support dedicated funding for small broadband providers to keep students and low-income families connected to the internet," the legislators said.
The "they" doing the saying were Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) and Reps. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and Roger Marshall, M.D. (R-Kan.).
The idea is to make sure low-income families and students can stay connected during the shelter-at-home pandemic-driven reality.
Many small providers have pledged to keep students and low-income residents connected—per a pledge solicited by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and on their own initiative. But these small broadband 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 continue to provide these services if customers are unable to pay for a prolonged period of time,” the lawmakers told the President.
The CARES Act included money for rural broadband deployment, but not specifically for small broadband providers underwriting the cost of keeping those key connections for those who may not be able to afford it. "Without support from your Administration, small providers may be unable to ensure that the communities they serve have access to critical internet connectivity," they said.
Last month, Klobuchar and Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), introduced a bill to appropriate $2 billion for rural broadband, and more recently called on Congressional leadership to support that funding.
“ACA Connects appreciates the effort of the House and Senate lawmakers to recognize this important issue," said a spokesman for the trade association representing smaller operators. "We look forward to working with them and the White House on these matters. Smaller ISPs have been keeping their customers connected, and they appreciate the recognition by these policymakers of their unique circumstances.”