Today, Access Now and 11 partner organizations will jointly deliver five separate petitions to the U.S. Congress calling for internet and phone service for all during the pandemic. Collectively, the petitions received over 100,000 signatures. Senator Ed Markey, Senator Richard Blumenthal, and Representative Nydia Velázquez will voice their support for the cause as they welcome the petitions at 11am ET today, to be streamed via Facebook Live.
In conjunction with the delivery of the petitions, Access Now and 217 public interest and industry groups sent a letter to Congressional leadership asking for access to affordable broadband in the forthcoming COVID-19 stimulus legislation.
During a time when communication tools have never been so critical, and unemployment claims have never been so high, the U.S. government must step up to make internet and telephone services affordable for those who need it most, including people in low-income and other underrepresented communities. These individuals need to be able to access education, work, and critical medical care online as much as anyone else. The health of the nation is dependent on sick people using telehealth where possible at home to “flatten the curve.”
“This disparity in access to essential communication tools is a deplorable failure to protect the fundamental rights and health of people in the U.S,” said Jennifer Brody, U.S. Legislative Manager at Access Now. “Over 26 million Americans and counting have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, and may not be able to pay their internet and phone bill. It is unacceptable that communities at risk who were already struggling economically will be hit the hardest by the national emergency.”
As authorities around the world grapple with how to confront the public health crisis, Access Now will continue to call for the full protection of digital rights, including the right to access critical communication services, for everyone.