U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Kevin Cramer led 26 of their Senate colleagues in reintroducing the Keeping Critical Connections Act to help small broadband providers ensure rural broadband connectivity for students and their families during the coronavirus pandemic
This legislation would appropriate $2 billion for a Keeping Critical Connections fund at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under which small broadband providers with fewer than 250,000 customers could be compensated for broadband services under certain conditions.
“Access to high speed internet is more critical now than ever for students and their families during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond,” said Klobuchar, D-Minn. “The Keeping Critical Connections Act will help small broadband providers continue providing free or discounted broadband services to ensure that students and families remain connected to school, work, and their communities.”
“As COVID-19 began to sweep through the country and take its toll on the economy, several small broadband providers went out of their way to keep their services available to struggling families who couldn’t otherwise afford them,” said Cramer, R-N.D. “That was the right thing to do, and now it’s our turn to make sure those same companies are not financially damaged simply because they chose to help the American people in a time of need and uncertainty.”
This legislation is cosponsored by Tina Smith (D-MN), Roger Marshall (R-MS), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), John Barrasso (R-WY), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Mark Warner (D-VA), John Hoeven (R-ND), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), John Boozman (R-AR), Gary Peters (D-MI), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Michael Bennel (D-CO), Dan Sullivan (R-AL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Josh Hawley (R-MO), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV).
The bill is endorsed by NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association and the Minnesota Telecommunications Alliance.
“Small, community-based providers have led the charge in keeping rural Americans connected during the COVID-19 pandemic. From identifying students who needed broadband access for remote learning and partnering with local health care providers to working with local leaders to help their communities respond to the pandemic, NTCA members answered the call when life moved largely online. On behalf of NTCA’s members, I want to thank Senators Klobuchar and Cramer and 27 of their colleagues for coming together to reintroduce the Keeping Critical Connections Act. This bill will help small business broadband providers – who themselves face struggles in these challenging times – sustain connectivity and keep more Americans online in the face of economic distress,” said Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association.