Oregon senator: “I believe it is time for our country to state unequivocally that it is an American priority to make broadband in 2021 what electricity became eighty years ago: an essential service on which every household could count, in every nook and cranny of rural America”
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden today urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to close the digital divide by making rural broadband a priority in 2021 that expands internet access to all communities in Oregon and nationwide.
“As Congress looks ahead to an infrastructure package that will help communities recover from the COVID-19 crisis, in line with President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, we have a unique opportunity to close this country’s digital divide and jumpstart future job and wage growth across the country,” Wyden wrote in his letter to Acting FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel. “I believe it is time for our country to state unequivocally that it is an American priority to make broadband in 2021 what electricity became eighty years ago: an essential service on which every household could count, in every nook and cranny of rural America.
“During the heart of the Great Depression, this country built out energy infrastructure to light up rural America and ensure that every community benefited from modern technology,” wrote Wyden, chair of the Senate Finance Committee. “Now, almost a century later, the internet is that modern technology necessary to drive economic growth, promote education and health care, and improve Americans’ daily lives in all communities across the country.” .
Wyden, who is holding 10 online town halls throughout Oregon through April 8, wrote how he has seen and heard firsthand from Oregonians statewide how high-quality, reliable broadband can lift towns up but also witnessed how rural and lower-income communities risk being left behind without first-class broadband infrastructure.
“If there were any debate about the fundamental role that broadband plays in today’s digital world, the COVID-19 public health and economic crisis made the answer abundantly clear: fast, reliable broadband is now as essential as electricity, and the federal government must make sure everyone can access it,” he wrote Rosenworcel.
Wyden praised Rosenworcel for taking important steps already, such as addressing the broken broadband mapping system and implementing the Emergency Broadband Benefit program. And he also noted that Congress has appropriated more than $20 billion for initiatives to promote broadband adoption and deployment during the pandemic and beyond.
“However, the federal government cannot stop there. In 2017, the FCC estimated it would cost $80 billion to expand broadband access to every household, and the price tag has likely risen since then,” Wyden wrote. “I believe now is exactly the right time to state clearly and publicly that this is a national priority.
“Congress and the Administration are already working on a major infrastructure package,” he wrote. “As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, which has a lead role in infrastructure financing, I am committed to working with you and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure that investments in broadband are at the center of any comprehensive infrastructure bill. This commitment must and will remain unshakeable until every American can count on high-speed, reliable broadband service. Only in this way can the United States continue to lead on the global stage in today’s digital world.”
Wyden’s entire letter is here.
A web version of this release is here.