Senator Baldwin worked to pass the bipartisan Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 to help provide immediate support for Wisconsin families. This action by Congress is another strong step forward to help Wisconsin meet the challenges we face.
As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Baldwin also worked to include a number of measures in the bipartisan Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 to expand broadband and internet access for rural and underserved communities in Wisconsin.
We are all in this together, and Senator Baldwin will continue her work across party lines to take additional steps to get through this public health crisis, stabilize our economy, and help us all move forward.
- For information on emergency internet resources and other utility service help, please visit: https://psc.wi.gov/Pages/Home.aspx
- For information on the Federal Communications Commission's Lifeline Program, which provides subscribers a discount on monthly telephone service, broadband Internet access service, or voice-broadband bundled service purchased from participating providers, please visit: https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/lifeline-support-affordable-communications
Emergency Broadband Assistance for Workers and Families
A new $3.2 billion program to provide a monthly broadband benefit to low-income households during the pandemic was secured in the bipartisan government funding legislation. This new program was based off of the Senator Baldwin-supported Emergency Broadband Connections Act, which will now provide a $50/month benefit to workers who have been laid off or furloughed during the pandemic, along with a range of other assistance to ensure families can access critical online services.
ACCESS Broadband Act
Among the bipartisan reforms included in the final government funding bill was the ACCESS BROADBAND Act, legislation cosponsored by Senator Baldwin to foster the development and growth of broadband resources for businesses as well as underserved urban and rural communities in Wisconsin, and throughout the country.
This reform will require the U.S. Department of Commerce to establish the Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). This will help streamline processes for local businesses to access federal broadband resources through a simplified application process and better oversight of federal broadband support programs.
Broadband Interagency Coordination Act
The year-end, bipartisan government funding bill includes provisions from the bipartisan Broadband Interagency Coordination Act that was cosponsored by Senator Baldwin to direct the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the NTIA, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to better coordinate the distribution of federal funds for broadband deployment. This will ensure investments in broadband deployment are targeted to unserved and underserved areas.
Major Broadband Deployment Investments
In her role on the Appropriations Committee, Senator Baldwin will continue fighting for federal funding to improve internet access for Wisconsinites, regardless of their zip code. Below is a breakdown of additional federal broadband investments that were secured in the year-end, bipartisan government funding legislation.
- $1.9 Billion to Fund the FCC’s Rip-and-Replace Communications Security Program: The broadband package fully funds the FCC’s reimbursement program to remove unsecure communications equipment from the nation’s communications networks. It also expands eligibility for the rip-and-replace reimbursement program to communications providers with 10 million subscribers or less, but still prioritizes reimbursement for providers with 2 million subscribers or less.
- $65 Million for Better Broadband Maps: The package fully funds the FCC’s development of new, more accurate broadband availability maps as directed by Congress in Senator Baldwin’s Broadband DATA Act. These maps will help the federal government better target support for broadband deployment.
- $285 Million for Connecting Minority Communities: The package establishes an Office of Minority Broadband Initiatives at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and includes $285 million to support Historically black colleges and universities, Tribal colleges and universities, and minority-serving education institutions, including when they partner with minority-owned businesses, to expand broadband capacity and availability at schools and in communities, including by assisting students afford broadband service.
- $250 Million for Additional FCC Support for Telehealth: The package provides an additional $250 million to the FCC for its COVID-19 Telehealth Program, which was authorized under the CARES Act, to boost telehealth resources for those requiring online health care services.
- $1 Billion for a Dedicated Tribal Broadband Connectivity Grant Program: The bill establishes a $1 billion grant program at NTIA to support broadband connectivity on tribal lands throughout the country. The grants will be directed to tribal governments to be used not only for broadband deployment on tribal lands, but also telehealth, distance learning, broadband affordability, and digital inclusion.
- $300 Million to Promote Broadband Expansion to Unserved Americans: The bill establishes a $300 million broadband deployment grant program at NTIA to support broadband infrastructure deployment to areas lacking broadband, especially rural areas. The grants would be issued to qualifying partnerships between state and local governments and fixed broadband providers. Priority for grants would be given to networks that would reach the most unserved consumers.
Additional Information and Resources
For general information and resources about coronavirus for Wisconsinites, please click here.
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