WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), both members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, announced their re-introduction of the Broadband Parity Act, bipartisan legislation directing the Federal Communications Commission to coordinate with Federal agencies to establish a baseline level of service internet providers must provide customers when offering service via a federal broadband support program in order to increase access to uniform and reliable internet service.
“The pandemic has shown us that far too many families lack adequate internet connectivity–limiting their ability to learn virtually, telework, and access services,” said Senator Rosen. “I’m proud to re-introduce this bipartisan legislation that takes concrete steps toward closing the digital divide for all Americans. By removing inconsistencies in service and improving broadband access, this bill takes an essential step toward equal access to health care, education, and economic opportunity. I will continue working on forward-thinking legislation to increase internet access for all our communities in Nevada and across the nation.”
“The future of West Virginia relies on our ability to connect rural communities and close the digital divide across our state,” said Senator Capito. “I appreciate Senator Rosen’s continued partnership on bipartisan efforts to improve internet connectivity for all Americans, and joint efforts like this one to bring parity on what defines high-speed broadband across all federal broadband programs.”
BACKGROUND: Specifically, the bipartisan Broadband Parity Act would direct the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the United States Department of Commerce, HUD, and any other agency that provides broadband assistance for fixed broadband service (i.e. cable, fiber) to consult together in order for the Commission to conduct a rulemaking to establish a baseline level of service for broadband service assisted by federal support.
Under this legislation, after the FCC establishes a baseline level of internet service through a rulemaking, federal agencies may only provide federal assistance if a program supports internet service that meets or exceeds, or will meet or exceed, that baseline when that service is deployed. The minimum level of service will ensure that it can support virtual learning, telehealth services, and telework. The legislation is prospective and would not impact projects begun or awards made before the date of enactment of the act.
Rosen and Capito first introduced a similar version of the bipartisan Broadband Parity Act in November 2019.