Press Release

Public Knowledge Hails Congress for $5 Billion Device Voucher Legislation Helping Low-Income Consumers Access Internet

September 14, 2021 ,
newspapers

Today, Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and Rep. Donald McEachin (D-VA) introduced the “Device Access for Every American Act” to help low-income consumers afford a computer or tablet, marking a significant step toward closing the digital divide. This legislation authorizes $5 billion dollars of funding over five years to ensure eligible consumers receive a $400 voucher to purchase a computer or tablet every four years. Households can receive up to two vouchers during each four-year period. Public Knowledge urges Congress to pass this bill or include it in the budget reconciliation package to help all Americans connect to the internet.

The following can be attributed to Jenna Leventoff, Senior Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge:

“ Without a computer or tablet, low-income consumers across the country can’t connect despite Congress’ significant investments in deploying affordable broadband across the nation. These devices enable consumers to apply for jobs, fill out government forms, or complete schoolwork — tasks difficult or impossible to do online with just a mobile device. 

“However, the unfortunate reality is that most low-income consumers, including many senior citizens, can’t afford to spend hundreds of dollars for a computer or tablet. Across the country, more than 11 percent of households don’t have a computer. A recent Pew Research Center survey found that 37 percent of schoolchildren in lower-income families had to do their schoolwork on a cellphone and 25 percent were not able to complete their schoolwork because they lacked access to a computer at home. Many more households, including 32 percent of Latinx families home-schooling during the pandemic, do not have enough computers or tablets, forcing families to make difficult decisions about who can connect and when. 

“The Device Access for Every American Act doesn’t just provide funding for a broad array of low-income consumers to get the computers and tablets they need to connect. It also includes important provisions to make sure that eligible consumers know about the program, can seamlessly enroll, and access quality new and refurbished devices.

“This bill will ensure that low-income consumers can connect not only now, but into the future. We applaud Sen. Warnock and Rep. McEachin for their tireless leadership in working to ensure that those most in need are able to get connected, and we hope that this program will be adopted as part of the reconciliation package and continue to receive robust funding moving forward.”

View our latest factsheet to learn more about how Congress can help Americans afford computers and tablets to access the internet.