What They Are Saying: Action on Rural Broadband Needed in Response to COVID-19

Necessity to Bridge the Digital Divide More Apparent as Pandemic Exacerbates Challenges for Americans Without Connectivity

For millions of Americans, the COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated the challenges associated with a lack of broadband connectivity.

Students who lack broadband connectivity in rural areas can be denied access to the full potential of remote learning, patients may be unable to access telehealth solutions that can help keep them healthy and allow them to avoid strained health care facilities, small businesses can face steep hurdles to adapting their business to reach and serve customers remotely and workers can struggle to telework in the same way that is available to their better-connected colleagues.

Policymakers in Washington have a unique opportunity to close the rural broadband gap by ensuring resources can be directed toward broadband buildouts in unserved and underserved communities on a quick time scale.

The spotlight placed on the digital divide during this crisis has resulted in a broad array of voices calling for urgent action in Washington to expand broadband connectivity.

Here are what a broad array of voices are saying on the urgency for action to expand broadband connectivity and eliminate the digital divide:

Richard T. Cullen, Executive Director, Connect Americans Now:

“As Congress considers and advances relief packages to address the many-faceted challenges of defeating COVID-19, solutions to boost the pace and scale of investment in broadband deployments must be seen as a critical component of safeguarding the health of the nation.” (Rural Broadband And Telehealth Critical To America’s COVID-19 Response, 4/6/20)

Megan Nelson, Economic Analyst, American Farm Bureau Federation:

“While the lack of broadband access in rural America is not a new problem, the necessity for immediate action is increasingly clear as rural residents and the health care facilities and providers who serve them are more reliant on telehealth in the time of COVID-19.” (Rural Americans’ Health Depends on Broadband Access, 4/13/20)

Burton Eller, Legislative Director, National Grange:

“As a nation, we cannot continue to create a health care system of haves and have-nots between urban and rural America. It’s high time for political commitment, medical innovation and high speed broadband connectivity as we come out of this crisis.” (We’re In This Together Aren’t We…? A Special Report On Healthcare In Rural America Before, During And Post The Covid-19 Crisis)

John Windhausen Jr., Executive Director, Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed virtually everything online, including school, work, government services, and healthcare access. Yet, at least one school district prohibited online instruction because some of their students cannot afford Internet access.  With anchor institutions across the country closing their physical doors for public safety, schools are struggling to keep their digital doors open to serve their communities… The U.S. needs to recalibrate its rules and funding programs to ensure that everyone in America has affordable, high-speed broadband… The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an unprecedented time, calling for bold actions to accelerate efforts to close the digital divide.” (Why E-rate Should Fund Home Broadband During COVID-19, 4/14/20)

Amir Nasr, Policy Analyst, New America’s Open Technology Institute:

“…Congress could and should include its own funding to assist households without adequate internet access during the crisis in emergency relief legislation…” (The Homework Chasm, 3/30/20)

Patrick Halley, Senior Vice President of Policy and Advocacy, USTelecom:

“Congress ‘should empower the FCC to use its expertise, whether through its existing programs or new programs, and to provide the agency with sufficient funding, and where necessary, any additional legal authority to make additional changes to address the issue.’” (Telecom Industry, Broadband Advocates Push For Internet Subsidies In Next Stimulus, 4/2/20)

Francella Ochillo, Executive Director, Next Century Cities:

“It’s time to harness the ambition of the National Broadband Plan and inventive COVID-19 problem-solving skills into an action plan that connects every community. Being able to ensure public health and recharge stalled local economies depends on it.” (Universal Connectivity Is Still The Goal. We Need To Keep Working On Long-Term Solutions., 3/30/20)

Broadband Connects America Coalition:

“We urge you to take action to ensure that all Americans have access to broadband during the COVID-19 crisis and thereafter. The current public health emergency brings into focus the important role of broadband in supporting economic, health, and social wellbeing. As more Americans are working from home, learning at home, and seeing the doctor from home, broadband service has never been more essential.” (Broadband Connects America Letter to Congress, 4/7/20) 

Dana Laurens, Senior Associate for Policy and Advocacy at Education Reform Now:

“Over the past few weeks, an array of coalitions have launched significant efforts to immediately expand at-home connectivity. There are multiple ways of achieving this, but both funding and flexibility will be required.” (Laurens: 12 Million Kids Lack Internet Access. Now Is The Time For The Government To Step In And Close The Digital Divide, 4/7/20)

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN):

“Right now workplaces & schools are closed across the country meaning families &kids have shifted to online work or learning. However, many of these families don’t have access to high-speed internet. I’m working to make sure everyone has the resources they need to learn and work.” (Twitter, 4/10/20)

Senator Todd Young (R-IN):

“As we face school closures and challenging economic times, I joined a bipartisan group of Senators calling for dedicated broadband funding for low-income families and Hoosier students in any future #coronavirus relief packages.” (Twitter, 4/6/20)

Senator Mark Warner (D-VA):

“This digital divide impacts nearly every aspect of life for Virginians living without access to broadband, as broadband has become a precondition to meaningful participation in the digital economy… This contrast has become worryingly more stark in the last month, with an unprecedented number of Americans now heavily reliant on broadband access for telework, telehealth, and online education.” (Sen. Warner Urges FCC to Open More TV White Spaces, 4/14/20)

Join our fight to bring broadband to all rural Americans. Tell Washington to take action to bridge the digital divide now!