Today, U.S. House of Representatives leadership introduced the HEROES Act, the next proposed installment of COVID-19 relief. The HEROES Act would, among other things, create an Emergency Benefit for Broadband Service, which would provide individuals experiencing hardship up to $50 per month for broadband access (up to $75 for Tribal areas) and would expand the E-Rate program’s funding and scope to cover schools and libraries purchasing modems, routers, and connected devices for students. In addition, it would codify the Federal Communications Commission’s Keep Americans Connected pledge and require Lifeline providers to remove caps on subscription plans.
The bill follows many of the recommendations Access Now made in its recent report on connectivity and COVID-19, including making it easier for communities (particularly low-income communities) to access and stay connected to the internet and removing limits on subscription plans.
“House leaders understand that people need access to high-speed internet to survive,” said Eric Null, U.S. Policy Manager at Access Now. “Unfortunately, even several months into the pandemic, Congress has not passed meaningful connectivity protections. Passing the HEROES Act would help close the digital divide and connect those who’ve experienced financial distress, including the 33 million filing for unemployment. Without an internet connection, it’s nearly impossible to get trained, find jobs or work from home, communicate with family, home school children, and seek telehealth services. It’s time for the Senate to step up and follow suit.”
As the U.S. Congress grapples 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 the internet, for everyone.