Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced the bipartisan Eliminate the Digital Divide Act which would create a $10 billion fund to help rural states like West Virginia expand broadband access in unserved areas.
“We all know access to reliable broadband is vital for small businesses, healthcare, students, and families, but West Virginia and rural America are still being left behind,” said Senator Manchin. “The Eliminate the Digital Divide Act would distribute $10 billion equally based on each state’s total of underserved areas, not just to the easiest and least costly areas. In fact, this bill includes $1 billion for high cost areas like West Virginia with mountainous terrain and other complicating factors so they can receive their fair share of funding to expand broadband coverage. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join our legislation and help bring broadband access to every American, no matter where they live.”
The Eliminate the Digital Divide Act would:
- Address the Rural Digital Divide by creating a $10 billion State Broadband Program where governors receive funds based on the number of unserved individuals in their state, not through the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) normal reverse auction process that disadvantages rural areas that are more expensive to serve. Governors will partner with broadband service providers to build out networks to their unserved individuals.
- Unserved areas will be based on theBroadband DATA Act, which requires the FCC to create a new, more accurate national map of unserved areas. As the only Member of Congress to formally challenge the federal broadband coverage maps, Senator Manchin has been fighting to ensure that this process gets funding to the people that need it the most.
- States and local governments will also have a chance to challenge the maps to ensure that areas without service are eligible for funding – which is often not the case. Senator Manchin knows that West Virginians can tell you where there is and isn’t coverage throughout the state, and this bill allows them to have a voice in the process.
- High cost areas will receive additional funding assistance through a set aside of $1 billion specifically for areas where broadband infrastructure is more costly to build, including rural, mountainous areas like West Virginia that are more than 3 times more expensive to serve on average than areas like Oklahoma.
- States will partner with broadband entities to build in unserved areas within 3 years of receiving awards. The bill also establishes a mechanism to hold providers accountable if they fail to provide the promised service on time.
- Address the Urban/ Low-Income Digital Divideby providing a platform for consumers to access information on the broadband options available to them.
- Amends the Broadband DATA Act to require the FCC to also collect data from broadband service providers on any low-income service options offered to their subscribers.
- The platform would provide consumers with the capability to enter their own financial information and see if they qualify for any state or federal subsidy programs (like Lifeline) and how to apply for that program.
One pager on the Eliminate the Digital Divide Act can be found here.
Section by section of the Eliminate the Digital Divide Act can be found here.
Bill text can be found here.