Press Release

House Passage of Infrastructure Package Moves to Close the Digital Divide

November 6, 2021

Last night, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 228-206 to pass a bipartisan infrastructure package that includes an estimated $65 billion broadband proposal designed to “bring affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband to every American.” The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed the Senate on August 10 and now heads to President Biden’s desk for his signature. Public Knowledge commends Congress and the Biden administration for taking this important step to narrow the digital divide by funding more broadband deployment and working to make broadband affordable for low-income consumers.

This package invests heavily in closing the digital divide by providing funding to deploy networks in areas where they are lacking or are insufficient to meet consumers’ needs, and extends the affordability subsidy. Public Knowledge commends the bipartisan package’s inclusion of funding for digital equity, the call for eliminating digital redlining, and the requirement that providers that take federal funds provide a low-cost option to consumers.

The following can be attributed to Chris Lewis, President and CEO at Public Knowledge:

“We applaud the House and the Senate for passing this important package, which includes a $65 billion investment to make broadband available and affordable across the country. As advocates for affordable broadband, we are thrilled to see the $14.2 billion investment to extend the Emergency Broadband Benefit created in the COVID-19 relief bill. We applaud the bill’s provisions that fund digital equity initiatives and that require internet service providers to use a uniform label so customers will be able to easily compare internet plans.

“This bipartisan infrastructure package makes great first strides in making broadband more available and affordable for millions of consumers across the country. However, the reduction of the low-income broadband subsidy from $50 to $30 is disappointing. States should ensure that their low-cost option takes this reduction into account. In addition to the investment in the infrastructure package, Congress should prioritize passage of the reconciliation package, which contains key elements for broadband adoption. Public Knowledge supports keeping the provision in the reconciliation package that funds digital equity outreach to consumers, as well as the benefit for devices for low-income households that don’t have the computers or tablets, which are needed to fully connect to work, education, and other essential broadband uses.

“While this legislation takes important steps to prevent providers from discriminating based on a region’s income or demographic characteristics, the effectiveness of this provision will depend upon the Federal Communications Commission’s interpretation. We urge the FCC to make sure that all consumers have equal access to broadband and we look forward to the speedy confirmation of the new FCC nominations in order to have a full five-member FCC ready to tackle this important implementation.

“Although there is still much work to do, this legislation is a big step forward, connecting millions across the country. We thank both chambers in Congress for passing this important legislation.”