From U.S. Congressman Dr. Roger Marshall's Office...
WASHINGTON - Over the past week, many small and rural telecommunications providers have taken FCC Chairman Pai’s Keep Americans Connected Pledge to help customers retain voice and broadband access in the event of coronavirus-caused economic distress. However, without payment, many small providers will struggle to keep their networks functioning and Americans connected. As we continue to make transitions as a result of this pandemic, Kansans will be reliant on broadband connections for school, work and socialization.
On Wednesday, U.S. Congressman Roger Marshall, M.D. and Congressman Peter Welch, (D-VT), introduced the Keeping Critical Connections Act to help small broadband providers ensure rural broadband connectivity for students and their families during the coronavirus pandemic. Marshall and Welch are joined by Reps. Don Young (R-AK) and Greg Gianforte (R-MT) in introducing the measure.
“Now more than ever we’re seeing how important it is to have access to a fast and reliable broadband connection,” said Rep. Marshall. “With the closure of Kansas schools along with more and more people adopting teleworking procedures, our rural telecommunications providers are working around the clock to ensure students, communities, and businesses have reliable internet access, no matter where they live. This bill will provide assistance to small companies trying to address the unique rural telecommunications needs posed by the coronavirus pandemic, and ensure that all Americans can remain connected during this difficult time.”
This legislation will help small broadband providers keep customers connected by creating a temporary Critical Connections Emergency Fund at the FCC. The fund will allow small telecommunications providers keep students, low-income individuals, and those economically impacted by the coronavirus emergency connected to vital online resources, such as emergency information, telehealth services, and online educational materials.
“With millions of people required to stay home and students across the country learning from home, broadband access is essential,” said Rep. Welch. “Small providers get it – the service they provide is a lifeline to parents and children who need to learn, work, and stay connected with loved ones during these difficult times. This bill ensures small providers can continue to provide their essential service during and after this crisis. We should pass this bipartisan bill immediately.”
This is the companion bill to bipartisan legislation introduced on Monday by Sens. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and others. It is supported by NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association, WTA – Advocates for Rural Broadband, Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA), ACA Connects, Minnesota Telecommunications Alliance, and the Broadband Association of North Dakota.